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Highest-Paid CEO-Chairs Earned $1 Million More Than Non-Chairs in 2015

May 6, 2016

CEO pay is still on the rise, totaling $14.5 million in 2015 among the Equilar 100, a study of the 100 largest companies by revenue to file their proxy statements by April 1. Among the CEOs as these leading companies, total compensation rose a median 3% year over year.

Two-thirds of Equilar 100 CEOs—or 67 total—also serve as chair of the board. Logically, it stands to reason that a CEO with more significant duties in leading the board of directors would translate to higher pay, and indeed, it does. The difference, however, is considerable, and median pay for CEO-Chairs totaled $14.6 million in 2015, compared to $13.6 million for CEOs who did not serve as chair. A table displaying the top 10 highest-paid CEO-Chairs in the Equilar 100 is below.

Top 10 Highest-Paid CEO-Chairs in Equilar 100

CEO-Chair Total Comp (MM) Change in Pay
Robert A. Iger
Walt Disney (DIS)
$43.5 0%
David M. Cote
Honeywell International (HON)
$33.1 44%
Jeffrey R. Immelt
General Electric (GE)
$26.6 43%
Randall L. Stephenson
AT&T (T)
$22.4 8%
Indra K. Nooyi
Pepsico (PEP)
$22.2 16%
James P. Gorman
Morgan Stanley (MS)
$22.0 -5%
Kenneth I. Chenault
American Express (AXP)
$21.7 -3%
Andrew N. Liveris
Dow Chemical (DOW)
$21.4 10%
Alex Gorsky
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
$21.1 3%
Michael F. Neidorff
Centene (CNC)
$20.8 8%

Source:Equilar, Inc.

View the full list of the Equilar 100 CEOs, including total compensation, company revenue, and total shareholder return, here.

Neither of the two highest-paid CEOs on the Equilar 100 list—Mark Hurd and Safra Catz of Oracle—served as chair of the company’s board. Among the top 10 highest-paid Equilar 100 CEOs overall, Bhavesh Patel of LyondellBasell Industries and Rupert Murdoch of Twenty-First Century Fox serve only as the company’s CEO.

Notably, Hurd, Catz and Patel were named CEO within the last two fiscal years, a common thread among CEOs on the Equilar 100 list who did not serve as chair. Thirteen of the 34 non-chair CEOs were newly appointed in 2014 and 2015. By comparison, just six of the 67 CEO-Chairs were named within the past two fiscal years.

The fact that a majority of Equilar 100 CEOs are also Chair is not unusual, but the distribution does outpace the S&P 500 at large, which has seen a steady decrease in the number of CEO-Chairs over the years. In 2005, two-thirds of S&P 500 companies had conjoined CEO-Chair positions, but that figure has decreased steadily over the past decade, totaling 55.1% in 2014, according to a recent Equilar study.

While the prevailing narrative suggests that shareholders and proxy advisors prefer independent board chairs, voting results often prove otherwise. From 2011 to 2015, more than 90% of shareholder proposals to separate the CEO and Chair position failed, Equilar found. In those scenarios, more than two-thirds voted to maintain the status quo, keeping the chief executive in the board chair position.

For more information on Equilar’s research and data analysis, please contact Dan Marcec, Director of Content & Marketing Communications at

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