EXCLUSIVE: Here’s information you need to know if you’re a Big Media investor, or simply want to understand how power works in this star-obsessed industry. This is Deadline’s second annual list of CEOs whose pay is most out of whack — meaning that the company board pays him or her far more than other top execs. The metric can tell you a lot about the dynamics of power at a company. Corporate governance watchdogs say that it’s a red flag when directors pay the CEO more than three times the median compensation for other leaders named in the annual proxy statements filed at the SEC. By that measure, 18 out of 30 media companies that I tracked and that have filed 2011 data fail the test — in many cases miserably.
What does it mean when there’s a gross imbalance? When it persists over time, then it could indicate that directors are in the chief executive’s pocket and don’t ask tough questions. But it’s still worrisome even if they honestly believe the top dog has skills that can’t be easily replaced. Talented up-and-comers usually split from companies where the CEO is treated as a demigod. Researchers also find that at companies with lop-sided pay, people are more likely to give the chief all the credit when things go well, and find others to scapegoat when they don’t. Sooner or later, the blend of unchecked power and groupthink damage the company’s performance — and the stock price. (more…)