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Amy Schein

Which CEOs Get the Biggest Bucks?

by Amy Schein | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

June 1, 2015 | No Comments »

CEO-biz-card_shutterstock_229999303_1100pxThe list of 2014’s highest-paid CEOs is in. Executive compensation data firm Equilar and The Associated Press compiled the ranking, calculating CEO pay using data from federal filing statements, taking into account salary, bonus, perks, stock awards, stock option awards, and other components. Findings reveal that a majority of the 10 highest-paid CEOs last  year came from the media industry.

So who is at the top of the list, and how much did he make? (“He” is an apt pronoun, considering the scarcity of females on the list.) The honor goes to David Zaslav, head of Discovery Communications. He earned a total $156.1 million last year after he extended his contract until 2019.

Other media execs in the top 10 include Leslie Moonves of CBS ($54.5 million), Phillippe Dauman of Viacom ($44.3 million), Robert Iger of Disney ($43.7 million), Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! ($42.1 million), Brian Roberts of Comcast ($33 million), and Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner ($32.7 million).

So why is big media more represented on the list than, say, big oil or big banks or big pharma? (The top 20 does include the CEOs of Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.)

A few theories go beyond the basic premise that big media CEOs have big egos. One is that the heads of these companies oversee individuals who are paid more than those from other industries. Actors, directors, writers, and other talent command huge salaries, sometimes in the millions. “In industries where the talent makes a lot of money, the CEO makes a lot of money as well,” suggests Steven Kaplan, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Another contributing factor is that a few major shareholders control the vote of some of the big media firms, so a small number of powerful individuals can override concerns about CEO pay. Media mogul Sumner Redstone controls almost 80 percent of the voting stock at CBS and Viacom, Discovery’s voting stock is heavily influenced by John Malone and brothers Si and Donald Newhouse, and chairman and CEO Brian Roberts controls a third of Comcast’s voting stock.

Here are the top 10 highest-paid CEOs for 2014:

1. David Zaslav, Discovery Communications, $156.1 million

2. Leslie Moonves, CBS, $54.4 million,

3. Philippe Dauman, Viacom, $44.3 million

4. Robert Iger, Walt Disney, $43.7 million,

5. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo, $42.1 million

6. Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, $42 million

7. Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com $39.9 million

8. Jeffrey Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, $36.6 million

9. Brian Roberts, Comcast, $33 million

10. Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner, $32.7 million

Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.

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