Skyrocketing compensation received by Corporate America's leading chief executives continues to be a topic of heated debate, and that's nowhere more clear than in the latest list of best paid executives, which includes well-known names such as Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Apple Inc. leader Tim Cook.
It may be no surprise that another highly paid executive comes from an emerging industry that took the market by storm: legal marijuana. A slew of cannabis producers went public in the U.S. as pot experienced many wins. The first among them was Tilray Inc. (TLRY), a Canadian company majority-owned by private equity firm Privateer Holdings. It priced its IPO at $17 and its shares were trading at $70.54 by the end of the year – a gain of 314.9%. Among the biggest beneficiaries of Tilray's IPO was its CEO and President, Brendan Kennedy, who was the second-highest paid U.S. executive in 2018 among companies traded on U.S. exchanges.
Listed below are the 10 highest-paid executives, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index. Bloomberg's analysis includes equity awards that are valued at each company’s fiscal year-end, not the date they were granted. Recurring grants or options are counted in the year they’re bestowed, and one-time grants meant to compensate an executive for several years are allocated over the period as explained in filings.
1. Elon Musk - CEO Tesla Inc.
Total compensation: $513 million
Musk's name at the top of this list obviously raises many eyebrows. His electronic car manufacturer, Tesla Inc. (TSLA), posted a $1 billion loss in 2018, and Musk has never wanted a salary (he is paid minimum wage to abide by the law but he doesn't cash the checks).
However, 99.9% of his compensation last year, Bloomberg says, was in the form of stock options tied to performance goals. In January of last year, Tesla announced a 10-year grant of stock options that vest in 12 tranches where each tranche vests only if market cap and operational milestones are met. "His $513.3 million figure for last year includes a tranche of the 2018 grant and part of a similar but smaller options award received in 2012," according to Bloomberg. Tesla sent Bloomberg a statement saying that its analysis is not accurate. “This analysis wrongly assumes that Elon received 1/10th of the combined value of his 2012 and 2018 performance packages, when in reality not a single dollar was realized last year,” according to Tesla.
2. Brendan Kennedy - CEO and President, Tilray Inc.
Total compensation: $256 million
Over 95% of Kennedy's 2018 package consisted of a pre-IPO bonus. His base salary was $425,000 in 2018, up from $375,000 in 2017. He received a bonus equal to his base salary in addition to options awards worth $11.3 million. The Yale School of Management graduate and co-founder of Tilray also founded Privateer Holdings in October 2011. He still serves as its executive chairman.
3. Bob Iger - CEO and Chairman, Walt Disney Co.
Total compensation: $146.6 million
Walt Disney Co. (DIS) extended CEO Robert Iger's contract through 2021 in 2017. It compensated him generously for his willingness to stay and for his successful closing of the 21st Century Fox deal; too generously according to the majority of shareholders and even Disney heiress Abigail Disney, who called his pay "insane." “Jesus Christ himself isn’t worth 500 times his median workers’ pay,” Disney, the granddaughter of one of the co-founders, said to CNBC. Iger also received perks worth $1.1 million, the highest of anyone on this list. The House of Mouse trimmed his potential package for 2019 by $13.5 million and increased his performance targets to placate shareholders.
4. Tim Cook - CEO Apple Inc.
Total compensation: $141.6 million
In August 2018, Apple Inc. (AAPL) granted Cook 280,000 time-based and 280,000 performance-based vested restricted stock. These stock awards were worth $126 million. They were received on top of a base salary of $3 million, a cash bonus of $12 million – his biggest ever – and perks worth $682,000. He is the only FAANG executive in the top 10 ranking.
5. Nikesh Arora - CEO and Chairman, Palo Alto Networks Inc.
Total compensation: $130.7 million
Palo Alto Networks Inc. (PANW) CEO Nikesh Arora, a former Google and SoftBank executive, was hired in June 2018 to lead the Santa Clara-based cybersecurity firm. Despite his lack of experience in the area, he was rewarded handsomely with a lucrative pay package. On top of a sign-on award of $19 million in restricted stock units that vests over four years, he received stock awards worth $39.3 million and option awards worth $72 million. Computer Retail Week reported that 63.7% of shares opposed the compensation package in a non-binding vote.
6. David Zaslav - CEO and President, Discovery Inc.
Total compensation: $122 million
Zaslav, who has led Discovery Inc. (DISCA) since 2007, signed a new employment contract in 2018 that provided a significant pay bump. On top of a base salary of $3 million and a $9 million bonus, he received stock awards worth $15.3 million and stock options, including a retention award, worth almost $100 million. The package he took home last year is still less than the $156.08 million he made in 2014.
7. James Heppelmann - CEO and President, PTC Inc.
Total compensation: $71.4 million
Shares of Boston-based computer software and services company PTC Inc. (PTC) hit a record high last year, and CEO James Heppelmann took home a bonus of $961,000 along with his base salary of $800,000. The majority of his compensation came from a performance grant tied to goals spanning several years, according to a company spokesman. Shareholders will be happy to note that Heppelmann received the lowest amount in perks of anyone on this ranking.
8. Stephen Schwarzman - CEO/Chairman Blackstone Group LP
Total compensation: $69.1 million
Blackstone Group LP (BX) CEO Stephen Schwarzman co-founded the multinational investment firm in 1985 with a balance sheet of $400,000 and a staff of four. Bloomberg reports that $67.4 million of Schwarzman's compensation last year was in the form of carried interest. The company also spent $1.4 million on his perks.
9. Tony James - Executive Vice Chairman, Blackstone Group LP
Total compensation: $66.2 million
Last year, Harvard alum and Blackstone veteran, Hamilton "Tony" James, handed over day-to-day management of the firm to Jon Gray and assumed the title of executive vice chairman. Besides his $350,000 salary, he received a $28.8 million bonus and carried interest of $36.8 million.
10. Stephen Angel - CEO, Linde PLC
Total compensation: $66.1 million
The merger of industrial gas major Linde PLC (LIN) and Praxair Inc. was completed last year. Angel was the CEO and chairman at Praxair since 2007 before taking the role of CEO at Linde after the merger. Angel chose to receive a $48.9 million severance payout of the pension he had accumulated at Praxair over 18 years, according to The Wall Street Journal. He also received stock and option awards worth $12 million and a bonus of $3.6 million.