Discovery CEO David Zaslav saw his overall compensation more than triple to $129.4 million in 2018, the year the company closed its $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive. Most of the total came in the form of equity options.
The package, according to a proxy statement released by the company Friday afternoon, includes $102.1 million in options. That compares with $15.6 million in options in 2017, a larger share of that year’s $42.2 million total.
It’s not a given that Zaslav will receive the full $129.4 million. The way the bonuses are structured puts an emphasis on the performance of the company’s stock. Even so, it is a lofty number likely to draw scrutiny.
The next-highest-paid executive in the Discovery C-suite was Bruce Campbell, the company’s Chief Development, Distribution and Legal Officer, who netted $12.3 million, up from $7.8 million in the prior year.
Discovery often has factored into the larger national discussion of executive compensation beyond just in media circles. In 2014, Zaslav was slated to take home $156.1 million, which was the highest yearly pay for a chief executive since Apple’s Tim Cook made $370 million in 2011. He didn’t quite get to the full $156.1 million, but even a portion of that amount is on the high end in the media business. Cable executives have received some of this decade’s highest executive compensation packages, with Liberty Global’s Michael Fries, Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge and Liberty Media’s Greg Maffei reaching the top ranks along with the frequently well-paid Zaslav.
Media chieftains like Bob Iger at Disney and former bosses Philippe Dauman at Viacom and Les Moonves at CBS also have been known to pocket large sums. The trend of rising pay packages has raised concerns periodically but appears to be continuing largely unabated. The current consolidation wave in the media business is only accelerating the compensation trend since many executives are incentivized to increase value and achieve cost efficiencies, two things many mergers can accomplish regardless of their ultimate strategic results.
According to a survey released by Equilar in June, a sample of the 500 largest public companies by revenue increased 3.5% in 2017 to a median $11.9 million. Overall, median CEO pay has increased 21.4% since 2013.
Discovery said in the proxy statement that its annual meeting will be held May 8 in New York. In addition to executive compensation, votes will be held on shareholder proposals regarding simple majority votes and disclosure of diversity and qualifications of company directors and director candidates.