The top five innovative thinkers in telecom drive technology and their brands forward, and they are well compensated for it. Staying one or two steps ahead of the competition in the highly competitive wireless industry requires an above-average business sense and the ability to think big and bold. The fast-moving and ever-changing telecom industry may pay its chief executive officers (CEOs) 500 to 600 times the average worker’s pay. Still, CEOs are responsible for generating billions of dollars of revenue each year. The following is a list of the top five executives in the telecom sector, as of 2018, from when the latest data is available.
John J. Legere, T-Mobile
At the top of the list is John J. Legere, CEO of T-Mobile (TMUS). His total compensation package for 2018 was worth $66.5 million. This breaks down to a base salary of $1.9 million and $64.7 million in stock awards. This is a dramatic increase from his total compensation in 2017, which was $23.7 million.
Legere joined T-Mobile as CEO in September 2012. His claim to fame came from reinventing himself to connect with the hot millennial market and for taking the bold approach of no contracts for wireless customers. Both strategies worked well and Legere took T-Mobile from a flailing company to a powerhouse in the telecom sector.
Known for his eccentric personality and colorful wardrobe, he implemented many creative plans during his tenure, such as large discounts for first responders. In one of the biggest moves in Telecom news, T-Mobile will be merging with one of its competitors, Sprint. And with that final chess piece in place, Legere will be stepping down as CEO in 2020.
Jeffrey Storey, CenturyLink
Next up is Jeffrey Storey, CEO of CenturyLink, Inc. (CTL). Storey received compensation of $35.7 million. This included a $1.7 million base salary and stock awards of $34 million.
Storey is new to the role, having become CEO in 2018. Prior to this role, he was president and chief operating officer (COO) of the company and before that he was the CEO of Level 3 Communications when the company was acquired by CenturyLink.
Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T
As the CEO of AT&T, Inc. (T), one of the largest telecom companies in the world, Stephenson's total compensation for 2018 was $29 million. That breaks down to $1.8 million in salary and $27.3 million in stock awards and other compensation.
Stephenson has grown AT&T to a market cap of $204 billion. A longtime employee of AT&T and its predecessor, SBC Communications, Stephenson took over as CEO in May 2007 and was named president one month later. The timing corresponded with the release of the iPhone and AT&T as the cutting-edge smartphone’s sole service provider. Stephenson has committed to staying on as CEO through 2020 but plans on stepping down after that.
Hans Vestberg, Verizon Communications
Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ), saw a 126% jump in total compensation from the previous year, thanks to his new job as CEO, a position he took the same year, in 2018. The $22.2 million he received in 2018 breaks down to $1.2 million in base salary and $21 million in stock awards.
Vestberg took the position of CEO after joining in 2017 as the chief technology officer (CTO) and president of the Global Networks division. He worked on the company's growing fiber network system and their move into the 5G network space. Before coming on board at Verizon, Vestberg was CEO of Ericsson.
Chuck Robbins, Cisco Systems
As CEO of Cisco Systems (CSCO), Robbins's total compensation was $21.3 million, which consisted of a base salary of $1.2 million and stock awards of $20 million.
Robbins became CEO of Cisco in 2015 and was a senior vice president of the company before that. He was also mentored by the previous CEO. Though his tenure has been brief, he has made a lot of progress at the company by modernizing its growth, building the company's humanitarian image, and improving workplace diversity.
The Bottom Line
CEOs of telecom companies do get paid quite a lot of money, but they provide a level of talent that keeps their companies at the top of the field while generating billions of dollars in revenue. Few people possess the necessary skills to perform such jobs. A CEO’s compensation is also an indication of how well the company is doing overall. The base salary is usually only a small percentage of total compensation, and the remainder is based on the company’s performance.