The Highest-Paid CEOs in the US

Highest Paid CEOs

You can make a ton of money in the media business, especially if you’re a CEO.

That’s the main takeaway from a new study by the AP and executive data firm Equilar, which charted CEO pay in 2016. The top seven CEOs on the list were involved in media: running cable giants, movie and TV studios, or even video-game companies.

The highest-paid CEO was Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications, who raked in $98 million. Last year, Charter merged with Time Warner Cable — not to be confused with HBO/Turner parent company Time Warner, whose CEO also made the top 7 — to become the second-biggest cable company in the US. (The CEO of Comcast, the biggest cable giant, made the list as well.)

After Rutledge came Les Moonves of CBS, who kept his network in first place and got his shareholders a 36.6% return in 2016.

But it wasn’t just video powerhouses that made the list. Robert Kotick, the CEO of gaming behemoth Activision Blizzard, came in fifth at $33.1 million.

Those CEOs not in the media business fared well in 2016 too, according to the study. “The typical CEO at the biggest U.S. companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, raking in $11.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation last year,” according to the AP.

“That’s the biggest raise in three years.” And over the last five years, CEO pay has nearly doubled the pay gains of full-time employees (19.6% versus 10.9%).

Here are the top five CEOs, all of which are in media:

The highest-paid executive in the survey was Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications, which absorbed Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year to become the nation’s second-largest cable operator.

His compensation totaled $98 million, about $88 million of that from stock and option awards included as part of a new five-year employment agreement. For Rutledge to collect the full amount, Charter’s share price will need to rise 155 percent over six years.

No. 2 on the survey was Leslie Moonves at CBS, who made $68.6 million. That included $63.9 million in bonus and stock awards the company’s board said he received for presiding over a 36.6 percent return for CBS shares in 2016 and for keeping CBS the top-rated network in the 2015-16 season, among other performance measures.

No. 3 was Walt Disney’s Robert Iger, at $41 million. That was 6 percent less than the year before, as slowing growth resulted in a bonus cut.

Fourth-highest at $37.2 million was David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, whose networks include TLC and Animal Planet. Roughly 70 percent of that was from stock and option awards.

No. 5 was Activision Blizzard’s Robert Kotick, whose compensation surged 358 percent to $33.1 million. That was almost entirely due to $24.9 million in stock awards he received as part of a new five-year employment agreement. To get them, the company’s earnings per share must hit a certain level, among other financial targets.