Despite a devastating financial crisis that left the stock market reeling, these seven CEOs managed to rake in at least $200 million from 2006 to 2010, according to calculations in Forbes’s annual report on CEO compensation.
Five of the seven highly compensated chief executives run companies with a stock price that is significantly higher today than it was five years ago.
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And in one case, the stock has multiplied fivefold. That’s good news for investors–and for CEOs whose compensation includes a hefty pile of stock options.
These corporate chieftains are sitting at the top end of the pay spectrum in a country where income inequality has been on the rise for a couple of decades. USA Today reported last month that median CEO pay in 2010 rose 27 per cent, while workers overall got just a 2.1 per cent bump. Between 1989 and 2007, the bottom 90 per cent of households accounted for just 16 per cent of income growth; the top 1 per cent took 56 per cent of it, according to the centre for American Progress.
Overall, the financial crisis may have had a positive effect on CEO compensation. “Short-term incentive has been de-accentuated over the last year or two, and long-term incentive has been restored,” says James Reda, managing director of the executive compensation firm James F. Reda & Associates. When CEOs are incentivized over the long-term, they tend to make decisions that are good for the enduring strength of their company rather than ones that boost stock prices – and compensation — in the short term, according to a 2010 paper by Harvard Law Professor and corporate governance expert Lucian A. Bebchuk.
Stock performance over five years: - 25 %
Watford has been at the helm of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum since 1999, during which time the company has focused largely on oil and gas exploration in the United States.
Its stock has been on a roller coaster ride over the past five years, reaching a peak of $99.69 in June 2008 before bottoming out at just over $31 in March 2009. But it is on track for long-term growth, which should be driven by its
Stock performance over 5 years: + 39 %
Armed with a PhD in organic chemistry as well as an MBA, Martin has been CEO of Gilead since 1996. The biotech/pharmaceutical company originally focused on antiviral drugs but today has expanded to researching and developing treatments for life-threatening diseases.
To date, it has brought 13 products to market. The company has been hurt recently by lower sales of Tamiflu, which Gilead holds the patent for through at least 2016.
Stock performance over 5 years: + 13 %
McClendon has been the CEO of Oklahoma-based Chesapeake since co-founding the company in 1989.
The second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States, the company started using a new technique in 2005 -- a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking -- which has come under scrutiny recently, especially after one of the company's wells in Pennsylvania leaked dangerous fluids into nearby waters last month.
Stock performance over 5 years: + 555 %
Jobs has assumed a godlike status in the business world after steering Apple through the launch of the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, etc., revolutionizing the way we use technology along the way. He co-founded the company in 1976 but was pushed out in 1985.
He came back as CEO 1996. Today, it often seems the only threat to the company's dominance is Jobs' health, which has had ups and downs over the past few years. He is currently on a medical leave of absence from Apple.
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