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Knowledge Center Reports

Equilar | New York Times 200 Highest-Paid CEOs

Tesla’s Elon Musk Captures Spotlight With $2 Billion Pay Package

May 24, 2019

The New York Times recently published coverage of the annual Equilar 200 study, which analyzes the largest pay packages awarded to CEOs at U.S. public companies with more than $1 billion in revenue. This edition of the Equilar 200 marks the 13th consecutive year of a partnership with The New York Times to analyze data on pay awards for the top CEOs. This year’s study has a number of key highlights, including a pay package of over $2 billion and a median total return figure that is sure to turn some heads.

The introductory page of this feature shows the Top 10 highest-paid CEOs in fiscal year 2018, as reported in the summary compensation table of their proxy statements 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 total compensation, change in compensation value year over year and the company’s median employee pay.

The 10 Highest-Paid CEOs in 2018

COMPANY (Ticker)
Hock E. Tan Elon Musk
Tesla (TSLA)
$2,284,044,884 4575310%
Frank J. Bisignano David M. Zaslav
Discovery (DISC.A)
$129,499,005 207%
Michael Rapino Nikesh Arora
Palo Alto Networks (PANW)
$125,068,836 n/a
Mark V. Hurd
Oracle (ORCL)
$108,295,023 165%
Safra A. Catz
Oracle (ORCL)
$108,282,333 166%
W. Nicholas Howley John J. Legere
T-Mobile US (TMUS)
$66,538,206 182%
Robert A. Iger
Walt Disney (DIS)
$65,645,214 81%
Jeffrey L. Bewkes James Heppelmann
$49,969,163 357%
Ronald F. Clarke Fabrizio Freda
Estée Lauder (EL)
$48,164,302 162%
Stephen Kaufer Vivek Shah
j2 Global (JCOM)
$45,062,153 n/a

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

Click Here

Key Trends and Takeaways

CEO Pay Increases Once Again

Overall, median pay for the 200 highest-paid CEOs was $18.6 million in fiscal year 2018. Equilar 200 CEOs received a 16.4% pay raise at the median over the previous year in fiscal year 2018. By comparison, the median raise was 14% for Equilar 200 CEOs in fiscal year 2017 and 9% in fiscal year 2016.

The Year of Massive Pay Packages: Tesla’s Elon Musk Leads the Way

This year’s study saw the top five CEOs take home more than $100 million in total compensation each, with Tesla’s Elon Musk topping the list with a hefty pay package of nearly $2.3 billion—the majority of Musk’s pay came in the form of an option.

In last year’s study, two executives received more than $100 million in total compensation—that was the first time since 2014 the highest-paid CEO received more than $100 million in compensation awards. The increase to five executives in this year’s study could shed light on a trend of massive pay packages growing in prevalence, particularly as large corporations seek to retain top executive talent.

Pay Packages on the Whole Continue to Rise

The 200th highest-paid CEO on this year’s list was awarded approximately $14.5 million, up from about $13.8 million in 2017. In 2016, the 200th highest-paid CEO was awarded $13.1million.

The CEO Pay Ratio Remains Consistent

This year’s study yielded a median CEO Pay Ratio of 277:1 for 2018. Not surprisingly, particularly in light of the increase in CEO pay, this represents a slight uptick from the median ratio in 2017 of 275:1.

There is no secret that median CEO pay has been an exceptionally high figure for quite some time now. However, the CEO Pay Ratio disclosure requirement is shedding light on the pay of median employees at these large corporations. The table on the second page of this feature spotlights all employee pay figures at those companies required to report on it in 2018, and compares the figures to 2017.

Equilar 200 Companies Produce Poor Total Shareholder Return

With regards to shareholder value creation, CEO compensation for this year’s Equilar 200 list missed the target, at least in the short-term. In 2018, the median total shareholder return was -5%, in comparison to 20% in 2017 and 14% in 2016. This comes at a time when pressure from shareholders is at an all-time high to align executive pay with performance. However, it is important to note that while compensation packages are partially forward-looking—incentive stock awards are meant to pay out over multi-year periods—the buoyed market has an influence on equity award values in the short term.

Methodology Notes

The Equilar 200 includes the largest pay packages awarded to CEOs from U.S.-based or listed companies with more than $1 billion in revenue that filed proxy statements for fiscal year 2018 by April 30, 2019. “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 fiscal year 2018, and include salary, cash bonuses, stock and options awards valued in their entirety as of the grant date (i.e. grant date fair value), and other compensation (including benefits and perks). These numbers exclude change in pension values and deferred compensation.

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

Amit Batish, Content Manager, authored this post. Charlie Pontrelli, Research Manager, conducted the data and analysis for this study. Please contact Amit Batish at for more information on Equilar research and data analysis.

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