As if C-suite executives weren’t rich enough, now they’re getting even richer. Not only are CEOs and other C-level execs earning higher salaries; they’re also raking in bigger and better perks, according to new data from the research firm Equilar.
Soaring Salaries and Pricier Perks for C-Suite Executives
The leading provider of executive data, Equilar collects information about more than 150,000 executives and board members from thousands of public companies. According to the firm’s research, the median compensation for C-suite executives at Fortune 100 companies skyrocketed by nearly 15% to $7.4 million in 2015, up from $6.5 million in 2013. However, that number only includes salaries, bonuses, stock awards and stock options. It doesn’t take into account all those extra executive incentives. (For more, see CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratio Just 276 to One Last Year.)
Over the same time period executive perks mushroomed by nearly 22% to a median value of $126,550. These perks can include anything from company cars, corporate aircraft usage and event tickets to insurance premiums, estate-planning services and club-membership dues.
Aircraft perks are among the most popular with executives. In fact, out of all 501 executives Equilar reviewed, more than half received corporate aircraft privileges in 2015, with a median value of nearly $64,000. “Many corporate policies allow executives to take advantage of the corporate aircraft for personal travel or to travel for business with their spouses, families and/or guests – typically citing security purposes,” states another Equilar report. “These perks are often perceived as part of the executive persona, allowing executives to travel and conduct business at the same time.”
One of the pricier perks C-suite executives often receive is protection. For instance, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Oracle chairman Lawrence J. Ellison enjoy security services to the tune of $1.5 million. Professional services, such as tax preparation, estate planning and financial statement preparation, are another common offering. “Because many executives receive complicated pay packages, companies often provide professional services as a perk to help them prepare personal taxes and other financial statements,” explains the Equilar report.
Almost all of the executive-perk packages Equilar reviewed included retirement-plan contributions, a category that grew by 28% from 2013 to 2015. The median value of these perks reached a whopping $52,843 in 2015. The two biggest winners in this category in 2015 were Comcast Corp. Chief Financial Officer Michael J. Cavanagh and Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts. Cavanagh received $11.8 million in retirement contributions in 2015, and Roberts scored $3.8 million. (For more, see The Basics of a 401(k) Retirement Plan.)
Perks in Exchange for Pay?
Perks might be on the rise because average CEO salaries slipped slightly over the past year. According to the annual Equilar 200 study, which analyzes the 200 highest-paid CEOs at U.S. public companies, average pay for the top 200 CEOs was $19.3 million in 2015, down from $22.6 million a year prior.
Plus, for the first time since 2013 (and only the second time since the recession), the highest-paid CEO in the Equilar 200 earned less than $100 million in 2015. However, the Equilar 200 study includes salary info only for CEOs – not all C-suite executives, who have actually seen a rise in average salary, as noted earlier.
The Bottom Line
The top CEOs earn more than 300 times more than typical American workers, and that’s not counting perks. From aircraft privileges and company cars and drivers to personal security, professional services and retirement-plan contributions, C-level executives are winning big time in the perks department. (For more, see Three Perks Business Should Give Their Employees and The Retirement Divide: CEOs vs. the Rest of Us.)