2010 Chief Executives Salaries Improved by 11%

Chief executives salaries at the biggest U.S. companies had a jump sharply in 2010, as boards rewarded them for strong profit and share-price growth with bigger bonuses and stock grants. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs of 350 major companies surged 11% to $9.3 million, according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by management consultancy Hay Group.

The rise followed a year in which pay for the top boss was flat at these companies.Viacom Inc. CEO Philippe P. Dauman topped the list. He received compensation valued at $84.3 million, more than double his 2009 pay, thanks largely to equity awards in a renewed contract.

The Journal measured CEO pay by total direct compensation, which includes salary, bonuses and the granted value of stock, stock options and other long-term incentives given for service in fiscal 2010. That figure excludes the value of exercised stock options and the vesting of restricted stock. The survey covered the 350 biggest companies that filed proxies between May 1, 2010, and April 30, 2011.

For the surveyed CEOs, the sharpest pay gains came via bonuses, which soared 19.7% as profits recovered, especially in some hard-hit industries.

Profits and share prices increased even more than CEO compensation. Net income rose by a median of 17%; shareholders at those companies enjoyed a median return, including dividends, of 18%.

CEOs of media companies claimed four of the top 10 spots: Mr. Dauman at Viacom, plus the chiefs of CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc.

Another media CEO, News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, ranked 52nd, with total compensation valued at $16.5 million. A spokesman for News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, declined to comment.

Mr. Dauman, Viacom's CEO since 2006, achieved his $84.3 million largely due to one-time equity awards valued at $54.3 million as part of a five-year employment contract signed in April 2010. In extending his contract, directors cited his operational and financial leadership.

"Viacom shares appreciated 33% during calendar year 2010 as compared with the 13% increase in the S&P 500,'' a Viacom spokeswoman said. The company benefited last year from a rebound in the advertising market and improved ratings at its cable networks.

Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle Corp., took second place. Long ranked among the highest-paid chiefs, he received compensation valued at $68.6 million for the year ended last May 31. It mostly consisted of options valued at $61.9 million. (The package was included in a November Wall Street Journal survey of CEO pay that slightly overlapped the current study.)Oracle declined to comment.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves landed the No. 3 spot with compensation valued at $53.9 million. The total includes a $27.5 million bonus, which "reflected the company's remarkable year under his leadership,'' a CBS spokesman recalled. "He led CBS to results that produced extraordinary growth in shareholder value'' as returns of 37.4% outpaced media peers, the spokesman said.

Media mogul Sumner Redstone controls Viacom and CBS through National Amusements, his family holding company, although the CBS and Viacom boards set executive pay through their independent compensation committees.

Martin E. Franklin, the longtime head of Jarden Corp., was fourth highest-paid. His $45.2 million package consisted mostly of restricted shares tied to higher per-share earnings or stock price at the maker of consumer goods. (An executive gets such shares free after sticking around for several years, but they sometimes come with a performance test, as Mr. Franklin's did.) Jarden products include K2 skis and Bicycle cards.

Jarden directors hope to propel long-term performance "by promoting the creation of stockholder value and maximizing the growth in the company's earnings,'' they said in its latest proxy.

Performance-based incentives worked well before, a Jarden spokesman said. Its share price has "increased by over 1,000% since Mr. Franklin joined the company in 2001, on the back of significant revenue and earnings growth.'' Mr. Franklin relinquishes the CEO spot at next month's annual meeting, but will remain executive chairman.

DirecTV Group Inc.'s Michael White ranked fifth with a $32.6 million package. The lion's share came from options and performance-based stock. He took the helm of the satellite-TV provider in January 2010. DirecTV doesn't expect to give Mr. White any more equity grants for the rest of his three-year employment agreement, a spokesman said.

Several chief executives experienced sizable drops in pay. Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s Ray Irani, who retired Friday, saw his 2010 compensation shrink 71% to $14.9 million.

The decline mainly grew out of a shareholder backlash that prompted the big oil concern to set a new policy last year cutting its longtime leader's maximum compensation by nearly three quarters.

But Mr. Irani received an additional $70 million in long-term payouts in 2010—largely as a result of meeting performance goals set by Occidental's board in 2007. (The Journal does not count the payout of prior awards as part of annual compensation.)

While serving as executive chairman until 2014, Mr. Irani still will have most compensation based on long-term performance, an Occidental spokesman said.

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