A few weeks ago I listed the media company CEOs whose pay is way out of whack with other execs in the same company. But if you think that all media chiefs receive such special treatment, then you also need to look at this list: Here are the CEOs whose 2011 compensation packages were more in line with their colleagues. They were below the threshold that makes corporate governance experts worried — typically when the top dog is paid more than 3 times the median for the other executives whose pay must be listed in the proxy statement sent to shareholders and the SEC. The tallies usually include the top 5 execs. As my previous posts explained, a growing body of research (including this study, this one, and this one) shows that companies with out-of-whack pay over time often suffer from problems including groupthink that can result in bad decisionmaking and a low stock price.
On the list below you’ll find CEOs whose pay doesn’t raise a red flag on that one criterion. But let’s be clear: We aren’t saying that they are fairly or unfairly paid. Indeed, many governance experts have criticized pay packages for some of the people here — including Comcast’s Brian Roberts, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, and Netflix’ Reed Hastings. The numbers simply show that the boards of directors seem to recognize that multiple people deserve the credit for the company’s performance.
1. DirecTV: Michael White. A big difference for the former Pepsi execs this go-around. Last year he ranked fourth on our out-of-whack CEO compensation list as sign-on incentives elevated his 2010 compensation to $32.9M, which was 7.2 times the median for his colleagues. This time, without the extras, he illustrates the opposite case — that CEOs can be paid like team players, too. For 2011, while DirecTV stock appreciated 7.1%, White made $5.9M. (The package: $1.5M salary, $3.9M non-equity incentives, $201,320 deferred compensation, and $317,989 other compensation.) That’s just 1.2 times the median for the satellite company’s four other top executives, equal to 23% of the pie for all five. DirecTV had 27,000 employees at year-end, including 15.900 full time at the domestic satellite service. That’s up from 25,100 in 2010 mostly due to overseas growth; the domestic satellite service was down 100. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 22; Among All Listed Media Execs, 54.
2. Comcast: Brian Roberts. Nobody would say that the chief of the No. 1 cable company, and NBCUniversal, was underpaid. He made $26.9M, down 13.3% in a year when his company’s stock was up 6.9%. (The package: $2.8M salary, $5.7M stock awards, $5.8M option awards, $5.5M non-equity incentives, $3.7M change in pension value, $3.4M other compensation.) The board paid Roberts on a par with other media CEOs, even though directors don’t have to worry that someone might hire him away from the family company where he controls a third of the shareholder votes. Still, he shared some of the wealth with his top colleagues. His pay was 1.3 times the median for the other four, and 25% of the total for all five. Comcast had 126,000 full and part time employees at year end; that included 85,000 at the cable operation with the rest from NBCUniversal — which entered the Comcast fold last January. In 2010 it had 102,000 full and part timers, with 86,000 in cable and the rest in Comcast’s programming unit. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 6; Among All Listed Media Execs, 10.
3. DreamWorks Animation: Jeffrey Katzenberg. The CEO’s 40.5% compensation cut pretty much matches the 43.8% drop in DreamWorks Animation’s stock last year. Investors are concerned that the company will suffer as competition in animation grows, DVD sales plummet — and as moviegoers resist steep ticket price increases for 3D. Katzenberg’s total was $2 shy of $4M. (The package: $1 salary, and the rest in stock awards.) That was 1.5 times the median for the other four top execs, and 29% of the amount for all five. The company had 2,100 employees at year end, no change from 2010. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 25; Among All Listed Media Execs, 75.
4. AOL: Tim Armstrong. With a 79% pay cut, the CEO wasn’t even his company’s top paid exec; CFO Arthur Minson made $1.2M more than Armstrong’s $3.2M. (The package: $1M salary, $2.2M non-equity incentives.) But Armstrong was in no position to complain in a year when AOL shares lost 38.1% of their value, and he had to defend himself against a proxy fight with Starboard Value’s Jeffrey Smith. Armstrong’s compensation ended up 1.6 times the median for AOL’s other top execs, down from 4.4 last year. That comes to 28% of the pie for the four execs named in this year’s proxy. AOL ended 2011 with 5,660 employees around the world, including 1,410 at Patch, its collection of local news services. In 2010 it had 5,860 with 1,200 at Patch. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 28; Among All Listed Media Execs, 93.
5. Cinemark: Alan Stock. Although the exhibition company’s shares were up 4.2% last year, compensation for the long-time CEO dropped 42% to $2.4M just before he stepped down in February. (The package: $633,845 salary, $837,333 stock awards, $811,638 in non-equity compensation, $137,794 in other compensation.) The big difference was the loss of stock awards that inflated Stock’s 2010 compensation. His 2011 total was 1.6 times the median for Cinemark’s other top execs., and 28% of the total. The company had 14,000 U.S. employees, 90% of whom were part timers. That was down from 14,600 in 2010, 90% of whom were part time. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 30; Among All Listed Media Execs, 110.
6. Cablevision: James Dolan. The Long Island-based cable company was jumble in 2011 with its shares down 57.9%, and the beginning of an executive exodus that included its respected COO Tom Rutledge. How important was he? Rutledge’s $23.2M package was more than twice that of Dolan’s, although the CEO benefits from his family’s 72% ownership stake and his side gig as Executive Chairman of MSG. (We assume his income as singer and guitarist for blues band JD & the Straight Shot is comparatively negligible.) Dolan made $11.4M, down 14.9%. (The package: $1.8M salary, $1M bonus, $2.8M stock awards, $5.3M non-equity compensation, $201,445 change in pension value, and $276,123 other compensation.) That was 1.7 times the median for other execs, or 18% for the seven in the proxy. At the end of last year Cablevision had 15,451 full-time, 1,593 part-time and 771 temporary employees — that’s down from 2010 when it had 16,350 full-time, 1,788 part-time and 927 temporary employees. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 14; Among All Listed Media Execs, 31.
7. News Corp: K. Rupert Murdoch. This may be one of the only times this year when you’ll see Murdoch’s name on a list of CEOs who don’t raise a red flag. It’s fair to ask how much of his pay was fair or deserved considering News Corp’s failure to control the law-breaking behind the UK hacking and bribery scandals. In this case, the compensation figures are for the fiscal year that ended in June 2011 — just before the scandal broke wide open. (Compensation figures for the latest fiscal year haven’t been released yet.) Murdoch’s compensation came to $33.3M. (The package: $8.1M salary, $12.5M bonus, $8.5M stock awards, $3.9M change in pension value, $308,432 other compensation.) That was up 46.5% for a period when News Corp shares were up 33.1%. It also was 1.8 times the median for the other listed honchos, and 29% of the pie for the five who were listed — including COO Chase Carey who was close behind his boss with $30.2M. The company had 51,000 full time employees worldwide, same as the previous year. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 5; Among All Listed Media Execs, 8.
8. Yahoo: Carol Bartz. We all know that Bartz’ story at Yahoo ended badly; she was ousted on Sept. 6 as investors blasted the company for failing to keep up with rivals including Google and Facebook. Still, she walked away with $16.4M in compensation. (The package: $735,025 salary, $9.4M stock awards, $2.6M in option awards, $477,534 non-equity incentive, $3.1M other compensation.) That’s up 37% from her take for all 2010. During her nine-month tenure in 2011 Yahoo shares fell 23%; they rebounded after she left to end the year -3.5%. Her take was 1.7 times the median for the other four execs named in Yahoo’s proxy, and 34% of the entire group’s total compensation. The Internet company ended the year with 14,100 full time employees, up from 13,600 at the end of 2010. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 10; Among All Listed Media Execs, 21.
9. Regal: Amy Miles. This has been a tough period for CEOs of exhibition chains, including Miles who runs the U.S.’ biggest. Last year she was on the front line defending the industry from studio efforts to offer new movies to consumers via premium VOD — potentially deterring fans from going to theaters — as well as disputes over whether studios or theaters should shoulder the cost for 3-D glasses. For her work, Miles ended the year with $3.4M. (The package: $750,000 salary, $1.7M stock awards, $750,000 non equity incentives, $227,515 other compensation.) That’s down 8.4% in a year when Regal stock was -1.7%. Her package was 2.3 times the median for the other four execs listed in the company proxy, and 33% of the total for all five. Regal says it employed 20,728 people at year end, down from 22,061. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 26; Among All Listed Media Execs, 90.
10. Netflix: Reed Hastings. It takes a lot of nerve for a company to let its CEO report a 68.4% increase in compensation the same year its stock plummets 62.5%. Yet that’s what happened last year at Netflix, which is still licking its wounds from Hastings’ decision last July to split the streaming and DVD rental businesses — and raise the price by 60% for consumers who wanted to continue to receive both services. He made $9.3M in compensation due to a 76% increase in option awards. (The package: $500,000 salary, and $8.8M in option awards.) His take was 2.4 times the median for the four other Netflix leaders in the proxy, and 40% of the total for all of them. Netflix ended last year with 2,348 full time employees, up from 2,180 in 2010. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 19; Among All Listed Media Execs, 39.
11. Coinstar: Paul Davis. The company behind the Redbox DVD rental kiosks benefited most from the turbulence at Netflix — as well as Blockbuster, which shuttered additional stores last year after Dish Network bought it out of bankruptcy. Still, Coinstar shares were down 21.3% last year as investors questioned the impact of Redbox’s price increase (to $1.20 a night from $1.00) and whether it could make the transition to a future where videos are delivered over the Web. It has rebounded nicely in 2012 after showing no ill-effects from the price hike, and unveiling a partnership with Verizon Wireless to create a digital service later this year. The growth efforts paid off for Davis, whose compensation rose 9.2% to $3.1M. (The package: $741,667 salary, $142,400 bonus, $1.2M stock awards, $492,572 option awards, $538,035 non-equity incentives, and $10,051 other compensation.) That was 2.4 times the median for Coinstar’s other top execs, and 35% of the pie for all five. The company had 2,676 employees at year end, up from 2,585. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 29; Among All Listed Media Execs, 99.
12. National Cinemedia: Kurt Hall. Shares in the leading seller of pre-movie ads fell 37.3% last year as investors grew skittish about the economy, and buyers’ growing preference to spend their dollars on TV. While the company has made up some ground this year, Hall felt the pinch with his compensation falling 22.6% to $3.3M. (The package: $750,128 salary, $330,056 bonus, $1.4M stock awards, $821,701 option awards, and $23,267 in other compensation.) His pay was 2.9 times the median for his four top colleagues, and 35% of the amount they all made. The company ended the year with 640 employees, up from 609. Pay Rank: Among Media CEOs, 27; Among All Listed Media Execs, 91.
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