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The Highest-Paid CEO by U.S. State in 2018

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July 30, 2019

Since the passage of Say on Pay in 2010, CEO compensation has been under the public eye and shareholder attention like never before. A recent Equilar study conducted with the Associated Press analyzed 2018 CEO compensation, broken down by the highest-paid CEO by U.S. state. The study delves into data covering the highest-paid CEOs at public companies in 46 states. To be included in this study, chief executives had to have been with their respective company for a minimum of two years and the Company had to have filed a proxy between January 1, 2019 and April 30, 2019.

The highest-paid CEO in 2018 was based in California – founder of Tesla, Elon Musk. Musk was awarded a total compensation of $2,284,044,884. Musk’s salary topped Maryland’s David M. Zaslav of Discovery, the second highest-paid CEO in the study, who earned $129,499,005. Musk’s $2.3 billion pay package in 2018 pulled California far ahead of the other states in comparison to 2017’s results. California came in second in 2017, with Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino’s compensation of $70,615,760.

In the 2017 study, it was brought to light that a correlation exists between state population size and CEO pay. In 2017, six of the top ten states with the highest-compensated CEOs were also within the top ten states in terms of population. In 2018, only four of the top ten states with the highest-compensated CEOs fell within the top ten states with respect to population. Miles D. White, of Abbott Laboratories in Illinois, just fell short of the top ten states in terms of CEO pay, coming in 11th place with a compensation package of nearly $24.2 million.

State Executive Company Total Compensation Population Population Rank
Elon Musk Tesla $2,284,044,884 39,747,267 1
David M. Zaslav Discovery $129,499,005 6,062,917 19
John J. Legere T-Mobile U.S. $66,538,206 7,666,343 13
James Heppelmann PTC $49,969,163 6,939,373 15
Lewis L. Bird III At Home Group $43,089,790 29,087,070 2
Paul C. Saville NVR $39,134,164 8,571,946 12
Brian L. Roberts Comcast $35,026,207 12,813,969 5
James Dimon JPMorgan Chase $30,019,840 19,491,339 4
Michael F. Neidorff Centene $26,122,414 6,147,861 18
James M. Cracchiolo Ameriprise Financial $24,815,971 5,655,925 22

States with the top 10 highest-compensated chief executives fell within the upper half of the country in terms of population size. On the other hand, the study’s bottom five states in terms of CEO compensation fell within the bottom half of the states in regard to population. The last state in the study, South Dakota, featured David R. Emery of Black Hills, who earned total compensation of $4,100,438 in 2018. This may indicate a correlation between state population and CEO compensation.

State Executive Company Total Compensation Population Population Rank
Darrel T. Anderson IDACORP $4,474,464 1,790,182 40
Joseph D. Margolis Extra Space Storage $4,430,326 3,221,610 30
Joe F. Sanderson, Jr. Sanderson Farms $4,226,166 2,987,895 35
David L. Goodin MDU Resources Group $4,124,067 760,900 48
David. Emery Black Hills $4,100,438 892,631 47

Examining total compensation of CEOs allows for general study but may overlook trends or data patterns that a more concentrated analysis might highlight. Analyzing CEO compensation by state sheds light on trends at a more regional and local level.

View the full list.

*CEO pay includes total compensation information disclosed in company proxy statements for fiscal year 2018, including salary, bonus, stock and options valued at grant date, any deferred compensation, and other compensation (including benefits and perks).

Equilar offers data and solutions to assist companies in ensuring that their executive pay packages meet the standards of investors. The Equilar product suite includes executive compensation benchmarking tools, pay for performance alignment solutions, a Say on Pay Tracker, Investor Voting Results and much more. Visit to learn more.

Ryan Lau, Associate Editor at Equilar, authored this post. Please contact Amit Batish, Content Manager, at

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