Running a big company is a big job that comes with big pay. According to the AFL-CIO, America's largest labor union, the average S&P 500 CEO earned $15.5 million last year -- 299 times more than the average U.S. worker -- and got a pay raise of $700,000 in 2020 alone.
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To put some real-world examples on display, GOBankingRates rounded up some of the highest-paid CEOs and examined their gigantic compensation packages. Some of them are still sitting behind the big desk, others are recently retired as of the last few years. All, however, earn enough money in a single year to keep a regular person happy for several lifetimes.
Last updated: Sept. 1, 2020
Nguyen Hung Vu / Flickr.com Sundar Pichai: Google Inc.
Annual Salary: $7.43 million
Sundar Pichai was appointed Google's CEO in October 2015 and joined the board of directors of its parent company, Alphabet, in July 2017. Helming the tech company is likely very challenging,
but the real stress might come from keeping up with his highly volatile salary. Pichai got one of the biggest raises and one of the biggest pay cuts in the entire corporate world at the same time last year.
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Jeff Chiu/AP / Shutterstock.com Sundar Pichai's Salary and Perks
Sundar Pichai's pay more than tripled in 2020 to $2.02 million, up from $650,000 in 2019 -- but that's just his base salary. Overall, his total compensation plummeted to $7.43 million from $280.62 million in 2019, when he received $276.61 million in stock awards. For context as to just how steep the drop was, the CEO-to-median-employee pay ratio dropped from 1,085 to 1 in 2019 to 27 to 1 in 2020, according to MarketWatch.
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Paul A Hebert/Invision/AP / Shutterstock.com John D. Schiller Jr.: Energy XXI (Former)
Annual salary: $4.3 million
John D. Schiller Jr. is the founder of the Houston-based company Energy XXI. He served as its CEO until early 2017, when he stepped down after bringing the company out of bankruptcy, the Houston Chronicle reported. The company was acquired by Cox Oil in 2018.
©Shutterstock.com John D. Schiller Jr.'s Salary and Perks
In 2016, which was Schiller's last full year as president and CEO, he earned a base salary of $910,000, a $568,750 bonus, $1.5 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation, $1.2 million in stock awards and $134,628 in other compensation, which brought his earnings for the year to $4.3 million. The perks in the "other compensation" category included a $28,885 life insurance premium, a $1,100 health club allowance, $24,283 for a car lease and $25,760 for club dues.
In addition to these perks, Schiller made use of his company card -- but some of those expenses landed him in hot water with the SEC. According to a complaint the SEC filed against Schiller in 2018, he submitted many "business expenses" for the fiscal years 2012 through 2016 that were personal in nature, including $40,000 for a bottle of wine, $36,000 for a shopping trip for board members' and senior officers' spouses, $43,000 for the use of the company aircraft to attend a college football game, and $323,000 to keep his company's private executive suite bar stocked with liquor and cigars. Schiller settled with the SEC and paid a $180,000 penalty.
In 2018, he signed on as CEO of LNG21, an energy company that captures and processes natural gas from facilities located in federal waters off Louisiana, where he remains today.
Richard Drew/AP / Shutterstock.com Thomas Rutledge: Charter Communications
Annual Salary: $38.8 million
Running a TV, internet and voice company that serves
31 million customers in 41 states is a big job, but Thomas Rutledge -- a communications industry vet who got Charter's top position in 2012 -- is paid handsomely for his efforts. The Charter Communications chairman and CEO received a whopping $38.8 million executive compensation package in 2020.
©Charter Communications Thomas Rutledge's Salary and Perks
Rutledge's salary had been ticking up incrementally from $8.15 million in 2018 to $8.74 million in 2019, according to The Hollywood Reporter, then 2020 dealt him a very hot hand. Charter bumped Rutledge's base pay a bit to $2.07 million from $2 million in 2019. The real bonus, however, came in the form of $30 million in option awards that were extra juicy because Rutledge didn't take any the year prior.
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Columbia Business School / Flickr.com Mario Gabelli: GAMCO Investors Inc.
Annual Salary: $29,232,929
Mario Gabelli founded GAMCO Investors Inc. in 1977 and gained a reputation as an expert stock-picker in the '80s. In 2013, his salary was $85 million -- the highest of any Wall Street CEO at the time, Forbes reported. Same as in 2019, Gabelli didn't earn a fixed salary or bonus in
2020, but he still managed to emerge as one of the country's best-compensated CEOs.
Douglas C Pizac/AP / Shutterstock.com Mario Gabelli's Salary and Perks
According to the AFL-CIO, Gabelli earned $29,232,929 in 2020, which is 455 times more than the average private-sector worker's pay.
There's no itemized breakdown except that the entire haul came from "other compensation." The year before, the lion's share of his salary came from portfolio management fees and the rest from incentive management fees.
Ralph Alswang / Center for American Progress / Flickr.com Heather Bresch: Mylan N.V. (Former)
Annual Salary: $18.5 million
After Mylan purchased EpiPen from Merck in 2007, the company raised the price of a two-pack by 500%. The public was furious, but CEO Heather Bresch's bank account is happy and healthy.
Bresch started at Mylan as a data-entry clerk in 1992 and worked her way up in the company. Prior to becoming CEO, she served as Mylan's president, and in 2012, she became the first female CEO of a pharmaceutical Fortune 500 company.
She retired in 2020 after Mylan merged with Pfizer’s Upjohn unit. Bresch received $18.5 million in 2019, her final year after three decades with the company.
Krista Kennell / Shutterstock.com Heather Bresch's Salary and Perks
Bresch received several hefty pay raises on her way out the door. In 2017, she earned $12.7 million, which increased to $13.2 million in 2018. That year, Bresch earned a base salary of $1.3 million, $7.3 million in stock awards, $1.8 million in option awards and $2.6 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation. She received $332,390 in other compensation, including $20,836 for the use of a company-provided automobile, $98,268 in personal use of the company aircraft and $24,730 from a 401(k) and profit-sharing plan matching contribution. She also had the cost of personal security covered.
In her final full year, 2019, Bresch got another raise, this time for more than $5 million. Her base salary rose only from $1.3 million to $1.5 million, but her stock awards jumped from $7.28 million to $9.45 million and her pension and deferred compensation soared by $2.4 million.
Fairchild Archive/Penske Media / Shutterstock.com Sandeep Mathrani: General Growth Properties (Former)
Annual Salary: $14.1 million
Publicly traded real estate investment trust General Growth Properties, which was acquired by Brookfield Properties in 2018, appears truly to have valued the contributions of CEO Sandeep Mathrani. The Chicago-based mall owner gave Mathrani $14.1 million in 2018, which sounds high, but is still nearly three times less than the $39.2 million he was paid in 2015.
There’s a good explanation for the major salary decrease. In 2015, Mathrani received a one-time, $25 million stock award as part of a five-year employment contract he signed that year. He wasn't sch
eduled to receive his money until 2020, but by that time he was gone. Mathrani joined WeWork as CEO in February 2020 to clean up a management scandal at the shared-office service, according to MarketRealist.
Sandeep Mathrani / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4 Sandeep Mathrani's Salary and Perks
Mathrani's salary at WeWork is unknown, according to MarketRealist, but his 2018 executive pay package shows that it included a $927,692 salary, $5.4 million in stock awards and $7.8 million in other compensation, including severance pay and personal use of the company's aircraft.
Fortune Live Media / Flickr.com Ginni Rometty: IBM (Former)
Annual Salary: $20.16 million
Ginni Rometty was named the first female CEO of IBM in October 2011. Employed by the tech company since 1981, she earned $20.16 million in 2019 as its chairman, president and CEO. She retired in 2020 after an unglamorous eight-year run that included 22 consecutive quarters of declining revenue and a 25% drop in stock value, according to the LA Times.
Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE / Shutterstock.com Ginni Rometty's Salary and Perks
Named No. 10 on Forbes' 2018 power women li
st, Rometty earned about $137 million in her first seven years at the top of IBM, according to the LA Times. When you add her 2019 pay to the tally, she easily crosses the $150 million threshold for her eight-year stint with the company.
In previous years, that included "other" compensation like personal financial planning, personal travel on the company aircraft, ground transportation, personal security, family attendance at business-related events and other personal expenses. It also included an "annual executive physical," which is far more thorough and expensive than your typical annual checkup. These physicals usually last all day and include a wide variety of tests. They can cost as much as $5,000, according to American Express.
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Stuart Isett / Fortune Global Forum / Flickr.com John Stumpf: Wells Fargo & Company (Former)
Annual Salary: $19.3 million
After receiving intense backlash from his handling of Wells Fargo's fake account scandal, CEO John Stumpf opted for early retirement in October 2016. His reputation might be tarnished, but you wouldn't know it by looking at his final CEO pay.
Cliff Owen/AP / Shutterstock.com John Stumpf's Salary and Perks
In total, Stumpf walked into retirement with more than $130 million. This includes around 2.4 million shares of the company, valued at $109.9 million, a $19.9 million pension and $4.4 million in deferred compensation.
Prior to the controversy, Stumpf had one of the top executive salaries in the U.S. for 2015. His $19.3 million compensation package included a $2.8 million salary, $4 million annual incentive awards and a $12.5 million performance share award.
Shawn Thew/EPA / Shutterstock.com W. James McNerney Jr.: Boeing Company (Former)
Annual Salary: $19.9 million
On June 30, 2015, McNerney stepped down as Boeing CEO. He retired from the company's board of investors on March 1, 2016. Despite scoring a CEO compensation package worth $19.9 million, McNerney kicked off his retirement by accepting a senior advisor role at private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
U.S. Department of State / Flickr.com W. James McNerney Jr.'s Salary and Perks
McNerney's compensation package for his final year at the world's largest aerospace company is more than the average worker will earn in several lifetimes. In 2015, he received a salary of $1.7 million, $6.3 million in stock awards, $11.3 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation and $586,220 in other compensation. The latter benefit includes $7,802 in life insurance premiums and $103,196 in company contributions to retirement plans.
JD Lasica / Flickr.com Jeff Immelt: General Electric Company (Former)
Annual Salary: $21.3 million
Former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt retired in October 2017, but not before cashing in on a giant 2016 payday.
At the time of his retirement, Immelt had served as CEO for 16 years. During his tenure, he overhauled the company's strategy, workforce and culture. Although some analysts say he is partially to blame for the company's
downturn, he was able to double industrial earnings during his time as CEO.
He's currently a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, a global private equity and venture capital firm.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com Jeff Immelt's Salary and Perks
His $21.3 million executive compensation package included a salary of $3.8 million and a cash bonus of $4.3 million. Also included in his compensation package were $4.7 million in stock awards, $2.1 million in options awards, $1.6 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation, $3.6 million in pension and deferred compensation earnings and $1.2 million in other compensation.
As the CEO of one of the world's biggest public companies and the most valuable public company in Connecticut from 2001 to 2017, Immelt enjoyed plenty of outrageous perks. The 2017 proxy statement detailed Immelt's $1.2 million in other compensation for 2016, including $257,639 in personal use of the company jet, $19,516 for leased cars, $445,136 in life insurance premiums, $376,744 in headquarter relocation fees, $7,150 in relocation tax benefits and $69,678 denoted as other.
After Immelt stepped down, the GE board became aware that a spare jet accompanied him on select business trips until 2014. It is unknown when the extra jet started traveling with him, but the company conducted an internal review of the matter.
Center for Strategic & International Studies / Flickr.com Ryan Lance: ConocoPhillips
Annual Salary: $28 million
As CEO of oil and natural gas corporation ConocoPhillips, Ryan Lance supervise
s 10,300 employees in 15 countries. The company can still afford to pay its CEO the big bucks despite recording losses of $2.7 billion in 2020.
Lance's background is in petroleum engineering, and he has held senior management and technical positions with ConocoPhillips, Phillips Petroleum and ARCO over the past three-plus decades. He has been CEO and chairman since 2012.
Pat Sullivan/AP / Shutterstock.com Ryan Lance's Salary and Perks
Lance's total CEO compensation package came out to $28 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. Only about $1.6 million came from salary while about half -- $13 million -- came from restricted stock awards that vest in three years. His pay is down about 7% from 2019 -- not bad considering his company's revenues were cut in half last year.
In years prior, Lance enjoyed a number of lavish CEO perks fit for someone running a massive multinational corporation. In 2018, Lance received $161,110 in personal use of the company aircraft, $12,689 in group life insurance premiums, a $23,591 tax reimbursement gross-up, $5,426 for meeting presentations and travel reimbursements, $27,500 for matching contributions under the tax-qualified savings plan and $142,500 for company contributions to nonqualified defined contribution plans.
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Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com Leslie Moonves: CBS Corporation (Former)
Annual Salary: $47.1 million
Being a studio head is a huge responsibility, so it's probably not too surprising that Les Moonves earned one of the highest executive salaries of 2018. As president, CEO and chairman of the board for CBS, Moonves oversaw all company operations. He was instrumental in turning the company around when it was failing in the mid-1990s.
Moonves stepped down as CEO and chairman in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. CBS stated that it was withholding a financial exit package until an investigation into the allegations against him was concluded, and in December, the CBS board of directors decided that it would not be paying him a severance. Moonves was eligible for up to $180 million if he were to be fired without cause. CBS donated $20 million from his potential exit package to the #MeToo movement.
In May 2021, Moonves finally gave up on his legal pursuit of the $120 million in severance pay that he was still demanding from CBS.
Erik Pendzich / Shutterstock.com Leslie Moonves' Salary and Perks
In 2018, Moonves' total compensation package was $47.1 million, which included some seriously lavish CEO perks. Along with a $2.9 million salary, Moonves received $42.5 million in stock awards and $644,938 in pension and deferred compensation earnings.
He also received $1 million in other compensation, which included $587,150 for security, $161,894 in transportation-related benefits and $232,940 in company-paid life insurance.
ABC / Image Group L / Flickr.com Robert Iger: Walt Disney Company
Annual Salary: $21 million
Bob Iger began his career at ABC in 1974, and he has worked his way up the corporate ladder. During his time as chairman and CEO of Disney, he's overseen the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.
Matt Baron / Shutterstock.com Robert Iger's Salary and Perks
Robert Iger is doing so well that his $21 million 2020 salary was a huge step down from what he had gotten used to before a steep two-year pay cut whittled down his earnings by two-thirds. He made $47.5 million in 2019. The year before that, Disney paid him $65.6 million, including a juicy stock package that was part of an incentive to put off his pending retirement, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The publication added that it wasn't just Iger who saw his check get smaller -- all of Disney's top brass took big haircuts after the crisis of 2020.
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Michel Euler/AP / Shutterstock.com Andrew Liveris: DowDuPoint Inc. (Former)
Annual salary: $65.7 million
Andrew Liveris was the Dow Chemical Company's longest-serving CEO when he stepped down in 2018. During his 14 years in the role, he oversaw many impactful business decisions, including the acquisition of Rohm and Haas -- the biggest acquisition in the company's history. He also oversaw the merger of Dow Chemical with DuPont Co.
Matt Rourke/AP / Shutterstock.com Andrew Liveris' Salary and Perks
During his last year on the job, Liveris earned $65.7 million -- $1.9 million in base salary plus a $4.2 million annual bonus, equity grants of $16 million and $43 million in deferred compensation and benefit distributions, Bloomberg reported.
Liveris also enjoyed plenty of perks during his time on the job, including personal use of the company aircraft to attend sporting events and charging dues to a charity he was on the board of to his company. The SEC actually sued Dow for not having these particular perks clearly disclosed in company filings, and Dow agreed to pay the SEC $1.75 million in 2018, Reuters reported.
Joi Ito / Flickr.com Philippe Dauman: Viacom (Former)
Annual Salary: $93 million
He resigned from his role as Viacom president and CEO in August 2016, but Philippe Dauman isn't hurting for cash. Named CEO in September 2006, he reigned atop the media conglomerate for nearly a decade.
Chelsea Lauren/Variety / Shutterstock.com Philippe Dauman's Salary and Perks
In 2016, his final year on the Viacom payroll, Dauman brought in an awe-inspiring $93 million in total CEO compensation. This included a base salary of $3.6 million, $13.8 million in stock awards, $7.5 million in option awards, $9.7 million incentive plan compensation and $31,657 in pension and deferred compensation earnings.
Dauman also collected $58.4 million in other compensation. This included $361,716 in personal use of the company aircraft, $22,711 for use of car service and a $58 million separation payment.
©Joe Giron Mitch Garber: Caesars Acquisition Company & Caesars Interactive Entertainment (Former)
Annual Salary: $210 million
Mitch Garber had a seriously lucrative 2016, his final year with Caesars Interactive Entertainment LLC. As the company's CEO and director, he oversaw the $4.4 billion sales of its casino-style games division Playtika, Ltd., to a group of Chinese investors, spearheaded by Shanghai Giant Network Technology Co.
The $4.4 billion deal was approximately 18 times what Caesars paid for the company, which allowed the company's main subsidiary to free itself from bankruptcy. Garber earned a onetime $210 million payout in stock options and bonuses when he left Caesars after closing the deal, the Montreal Gazette reported.
Swg42 / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3 Mitch Garber's Salary and Perks
Garber's $210 million CEO pay included a $1.7 million salary and bonus, $168.3 million in stock options and restricted shares and stock he owned in the interactive division valued at $40.3 million.
JStone / Shutterstock.com Marissa Mayer: Yahoo (Former)
Total Severance Pay: Nearly $260 million
She took the top job at Yahoo in 2012, but Marissa Mayer resigned from the tech company in June 2017 after playing an instrumental role in its demise. Her departure coincided with the closing of Verizon's $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo, which came with a hefty cut of executive pay for Mayer.
Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock / Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock Marissa Mayer's Salary and Perks
In total, Mayer walked away with nearly $260 million in CEO pay. This included roughly 4.5 million shares of Yahoo, valued at approximately $236 million, and $23 million in severance payments.
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Gabrielle Olya and Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.