It isn’t often that the No. 2 guy makes more than the boss, but it happened at Comcast in 2014 according to the company proxy, just filed at the SEC. CEO Brian Robers made $32.96 million, up 5.1% — but NBCUniversal chief Stephen Burke got a 9% raise to $33.92 million.
Roberts’ package consisted of a $2.9 million salary, $5.3 million in stock awards, $5.4 million in option awards, $9 million in non-equity incentives, $6.5 million change in pension value, and $4 million in other compensation. The last category includes $346,564 for personal use of the company plane.
The board says he was “instrumental in continuing to shape the strategic vision of our company, including our decision to pursue the Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications transactions.” Directors also credit him for “championing our technology initiatives, in focusing on the customer experience, in creating a culture of integrity and compliance and in reinforcing our ‘one Company’ culture and diversity initiatives.”
Burke’s compensation comes to: $2.7 million salary, $7.4 million stock awards, $5.4 million option awards, $8.4 million in non-equity incentives, $3.8 million change in pension value, and $6.4 million in other compensation which includes $387,081 for personal use of the Comcast aircraft.
The Comcast board says Burke deserves credit for helping NBCUniversal revenues to grow 7.5% — or 2.9% if you factor out the Sochi Olympics. Burke’s “strategic vision (including his commitment to continuing to invest in our programming assets and theme park attractions) has been a critical factor in NBCUniversal attaining such strong results,” directors say.
Comcast’s adjusted stock price increased 13.1% last year, slightly ahead of the rest of the market measured by the benchmark Standard & Poors’ 500 which increased 11.4%.
The company’s revenues increased 6.4% to $68.8 billion. Operating income improved 9.9% to $14.9 billion. When you fold in financial activity — including interest payments, taxes, and investment income — the cable giant ended up with net profits of $8.4 billion, +23%. The tally includes $237 million spent to advance its $45 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable.
NBCUniversal paid Comcast $35 million “for direct services provided by our executive officers,” the company says in its annual report.
Comcast’s compensation committee is chaired by Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin, a former president of the University of Pennsylvania. It also includes Tyco International Chairman Edward Breen, Aegis Chairman Joseph Collins, and Bank of New York Mellon CEO Gerald Hassell.
Comcast’s annual meeting will take place in Philadelphia on May 21 and will be webcast.
Investors will have a chance to vote on a shareholder proposal asking Comcast to prepare an annual report on its lobbying activities. Supporters say it will help investors determine whether the efforts are “consistent with our company’s expressed goals and in the best interests of shareholders and long-term value.”
Comcast opposes the idea, saying it would be “burdensome and an unproductive use of our resources and… not in the best interests of our shareholders.”
Another proposal calls for a change to ascribe one vote to each share — getting rid of the system that gives 15 votes for each of the Class B shares controlled by the Roberts family, giving them a third of all votes. “Without an equal voice, shareholders cannot hold management accountable,” the proposal says.
Here, too, the board urges investors to reject a more democratic policy. The status quo “has contributed to our stability and long-term shareholder returns.”