Updated with Charter statement: Charter Communications’ Tom Rutledge is the odds-on favorite to be deemed last year’s highest-paid media CEO with an astronomically high $98.5 million package, up from $16.4 million in 2015, according to the company’s just-released proxy.
His package benefited from option awards valued at nearly $78 million that came as part of a new five-year employment deal.
Rutledge also saw $2 million in salary, $10.1 million in stock awards, $7.7 million in non-equity incentives, $503,383 change in pension value and $283,549 in other compensation. Almost all of the last category consists of the value of his personal use of the corporate jet.
The options and stock awards are the only ones the CEO will is expected see through 2020. They’re also contingent on the company hitting specific financial targets. For example, the stock has to rise at least 30% within six years.
In addition, with the acquisition of Time Warner Cable, Charter began to benchmark compensation against larger companies.
All of Charter’s executives saw big compensation increases due to the additional option awards. The No. 2, COO John Bickham, saw $47.4 million — an amount that in 2015 would have made him media’s third-highest-paid exec.
Charter shares appreciated 26.6% last year.
The company says, in a statement, that with the deals for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks it’s “roughly four times larger than the legacy company.” The new five-year contracts are “structured to ensure the retention of the highest caliber executives through the integration process and a strong alignment with the long-term interests of the Company’s stockholders.”
Specifically, the company says, the ultimate payouts are “dependent upon the Company’s stock performance, rewarding executives for performance that enhances long-term shareholder value.”
Shareholders will have a chance to offer their opinions about the compensation at the company’s annual meeting, taking place April 25 in Stamford, Conn. Charter will have an SEC-required advisory vote on the packages. The board also has a proposal to hold these votes once every three years.
A shareholder proposal, that Charter directors oppose, calls on the company to make it easier for investors to nominate board candidates.
The effort has a steep hill to climb: Liberty Media Chairman John Malone controls about 25% of Charter’s shares, while Advance/Newhouse has 12.9%
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