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Knowledge Center Reports

Equilar 200: Ranking the Largest CEO Pay Packages

May 25, 2017

The New York Times recently published its coverage of the annual Equilar 200 study, which analyzes the largest pay packages awarded to CEOs at U.S. public companies. The 2017 Equilar 200 marks the 11th consecutive year of a partnership with The New York Times to analyze data on pay awards for these high-profile executives.

The introductory page of this feature shows the Top 10 CEOs who were awarded the largest pay packages in 2016, as reported in the summary compensation table of the proxy statement filed to the SEC. (Read more about the study’s methodology. )

Below the Top 10 table, there is a link to the full list of the 200 CEOs in an interactive chart that allows you to sort by pay, change in compensation year over year, change in company revenue and total shareholder return (TSR) to see how pay aligns with company performance and shareholder return.

Because compensation is reported to the SEC including the full value of stock and options awards on the day they were granted, “total compensation” in this study does not reflect what CEOs actually put in their pocket each year, but rather what they were awarded in both cash and equity during the fiscal year reported. Therefore, these numbers reflect what CEOs earn for both short-term gains and what they are being provided to incentivize long-term performance.

The Top 10 Largest CEO Pay Packages in 2016

Thomas M. Rutledge
Charter Communications (CHTR)
$98,012,344 499% n/a
Leslie Moonves
$68,594,646 22% 36%
David O'Connor
Madison Square Garden (MSG)
$54,044,394 n/a n/a
Fabrizio Freda
Estee Lauder (EL)
$47,691,779 196% 6%
Mark G. Parker
Nike (NKE)
$47,615,302 183% 10%
Mark V. Hurd
Oracle (ORCL)
$41,121,896 n/a -6%
Robert A. Iger
Walt Disney (DIS)
$40,988,618 -6% -8%
Safra A. Catz
Oracle (ORCL)
$40,943,812 n/a -6%
David M. Zaslav
Discovery Communications (DISCA)
$37,192,354 15% 3%
Robert A. Kotick
Activision Blizzard (ATVI)
$33,065,560 358% -6%
*n/a = Executive did not serve two full fiscal years as CEO
**n/a = Company not publicly traded for a full fiscal year

The full list of CEOs is on the following page in an interactive table.

View the Equilar | New York Times 200

Key Trends and Takeaways

Pay packages on the whole were higher than ever before.

The 200th CEO on this year’s list was awarded more than $13 million for the first time in the history of the Equilar 200 study. In the past, the low-end cut off has typically been approximately $12 million. On the 2015 list, for example, the 200th CEO was awarded $12.2 million, and 18 CEOs who made the list last year received pay packages less than $13 million.

Median pay for Equilar 200 CEOs was $16.9 million in fiscal year 2016, and the CEOs on this list saw a 9% pay increase at the median. CEOs on last year’s Equilar 200 list were awarded 5% more than in 2014 at the median. Average pay for the Equilar 200 in 2016 was $19.7 million, compared to $19.3 million for the CEOs on the 2015 list.

Media and entertainment companies dominate the top 10 and were awarded more than any other sector overall.

Tom Rutledge, the CEO of Charter Communications, had the highest chief executive pay package in 2016, bolstered by an options award valued at $78.0 million that will he will receive if he meets performance goals over the next five years.

Other more familiar faces at the top of the Equilar 200 list include Les Moonves of CBS, Robert Iger of Walt Disney and David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, who each consistently appear in the top 10 for this annual study. Along with Rutledge, newcomers to the top rung of the Equilar 200 ladder who lead companies in the media and entertainment business included David O’Connor of Madison Square Garden and Robert Kotick of Activision Blizzard.

Overall, CEOs in the “services” sector, which includes each of these executives, were awarded a median pay package of $20.1 million, more than any other sector. Because it is so wide-ranging, the services sector also boasts the most CEOs on the list. Interestingly, CEOs from the services sector represented in the recent Equilar 100 study—which looked at CEO pay among the 100 largest companies by revenue to file proxy statements before April 1, 2017—were awarded the lowest median.

Though few in number, top female CEOs outpace the field.

Sixteen CEOs on the Equilar 200 list are female, one more than on the previous year’s list. These women were awarded $17.6 million at the median, down from $18.6 million for the 15 women on last year’s list.

Once again, however, the female CEOs on the list outpaced males with an average pay package of $20.9 million vs. $19.5 million. Safra Catz of Oracle earned the largest pay package of any female CEO at $40.9 million—eighth on the list. She was the only woman in the top 10 for the second year in a row.

The largest cash award goes to…

Les Moonves of CBS received a $32 million cash bonus in 2016. Jeff Immelt of GE earned the largest salary in the study at $3.8 million. Moonves was a close second with $3.5 million in base salary, and along with the value of his benefits and perks, his total cash compensation for the year came in at $36.6 million. By comparison, Immelt’s total cash compensation was $10.9 million.

Methodology Notes

The Equilar 200 includes CEOs from U.S.-based or listed companies with more than $1 billion in revenue that filed proxy statements by May 1, 2017, ranked by the total value of reported compensation. “Total compensation” is defined as information disclosed in the summary compensation table of company proxy statements filed to the SEC. The figures represent what was awarded to a CEO in the fiscal year 2016, and include salary, bonus, stock and options valued at grant date, and other compensation (including benefits and perks). These numbers exclude pension and deferred compensation because the change in value of those elements are not reflective of decisions made to compensate the executive during the most recent fiscal year.

For information regarding the Equilar 200 and the underlying datasets, or to learn more about Equilar Research Services, please contact the Equilar research team at

For more information on Equilar research and data analysis, please contact Amit Batish, Content Manager—who also authored this post—at

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