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Last Year’s Highest-Paid CEOs Didn’t Come from the Biggest Companies

Leaders earned a solid pay raise last year, though company size and total shareholder returns didn't always determine who got the biggest increase.

CEOs from some of America’s biggest companies earned an average compensation package of $16.6 million in 2016, up 7.1% from the year before, according to an analysis by executive data firm Equilar.

The heads of some of the country’s largest companies didn’t appear at the top of the list, headed by Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge, who made $98 million.

CEO pay more broadly is being expanded by a rising stock market, which has lifted the value of stock options, as the economy continues to recover and a new conservative administration promises tax cuts. Rutledge’s pay jumped 42% after the cable television company’s revenue almost was tripled by its acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Rutledge also oversaw an impressive total return for shareholders of 42%.

In second place last year was Nike’s Mark Parker, who made $47.6 million. The cost of having two heads at once was demonstrated at Oracle, whose co-CEOs, Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, took home $41.1 million and $40.9 million, respectively, giving them third and fifth place. Disney’s Bob Iger took out fourth, with $40.1 million.


The survey analyzed the 100 largest companies by revenue that filed remuneration data for 2016 before April 1. The median CEO pay was $15 million, up 6% and the largest increase since 2013, Equilar said.

The average total shareholder return generated was 11%, though six CEOs in the top 10 fell below that marker.

Also making the top 10 were Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman, Johnson Controls International’s Alex Molinaroli, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, HP’s Dion Weisler and Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi.

Once again, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett came in at the bottom of the list, earning $487,881. He was the only CEO to be awarded below $3 million, despite Berkshire overtaking Apple as the largest company by revenue.

Apple revenue fell 8% last year, as the company struggled to sell new iPhones at the same blistering rate in a mature market. Tim Cook experienced a 15% reduction in compensation, placing him at 89th.

It’s important to note that CEOs in the Fortune 1000 represent a fraction of the total number of CEOs today. There are actually about 206,000 businesses when you include mid-market and all private companies. The average total compensation package for CEOs in this group is vastly different than those in the Fortune 1000. For more about private company CEO compensation, click here.

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