The 33 Richest People In Advertising, Ranked By Income

john wren martin sorrellOmnicom’s John Wren and WPP’s Martin Sorrell

Photo: Omnicom / WEF / Flickr, CC

Who are the best-paid people in the advertising business? Sure, the usual suspects are here—WPP’s Martin Sorrell and Omnicom’s John Wren, for instance—but you’ll be surprised by some of the names among the 33 most richly compensated execs in the business.

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When MDC Partners—an agency network most people have never heard of—disclosed its management compensation this year, people were shocked that CEO Miles Nadal received a 278 per cent pay raise, to just under $24 million.

advertising rich list

Photo: Jim Edwards / BI / Company documents

That made him one of the best-compensated CEOs in the ad business.He’s not, it turns out, the best-paid ad executive in the world, however, according to our ranking. (Our methodology is explained at the end of the slideshow.) Before we reveal the most lucrative CEO compensation package of the year—it’s a staggering $26 million!—it’s worth noting some other highlights:

  • Which adman uses his agency’s private jet for personal vacations the most?
  • Which fantastically wealthy media-buying veteran gets paid only $5,000 in cash every year?
  • Who is the only woman on our list of the top 33 best-paid people in advertising?
  • Whose limousine bill is $16,000 a year?
  • And while it’s not surprising that the list is dominated by CEOs and agency founders, it is a shock that only one of the 33 is a chief creative officer—but who is it?

Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the corporate governance consultancy GMI Ratings, reviewed compensation practices at each company and added commentary.

No. 33 Hervé Philippe

Compensation: $540,678

Company: Havas (CFO)

Notes: His compensation was largely flat from the year before.

No. 32 Jean-Michel Etienne

Compensation: $1,175,682

Company: Publicis (CFO)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $991,307.

No. 31 Dennis E. Hewitt

Compensation: $1,240,000

Company: Omnicom (treasurer)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $954,000.

No. 30 Jacques Séguéla

Compensation: $1,343,795

Company: Havas (chief creative officer)

Notes: His compensation was identical from 2010.

No. 29 Léopoldo Rodés Castañe

Compensation: $1,514,524

Company: Havas (board member)

Notes: Castane, 75, is Spanish advertising royalty. He is the son of the founder of Media Planning S.A., a Spanish media buying agency that was rolled up into Media Planning Group and Havas. Rodés Castañé founded Tiempo, an advertising agency, in 1958.

No. 28 Gavin Swartzman

Compensation: $1,550,196

Company: MDC Partners (managing director)

Notes: 2011 was his first year on the chart.

No. 27 Mitchell S. Gendel

Compensation: $1,559,571

Company: MDC Partners (general counsel)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $672,000.

No. 26 Fernando Rodés Vilà

Compensation: $1,563,059

Company: Havas (CEO)

Notes: The former CEO of Euro RSCG, Rodés Vilà was succeeded in 2011 by David Jones.

No. 25 Christopher Carroll

Compensation: $1,607,808

Company: Interpublic Group (chief accounting officer)

Notes: Carroll joined IPG's McCann WorldGroup in 2005, as controller. This is his first year as a named executive at IPG.

No. 24 Michael C. Sabatino

Compensation: $1,608,787

Company: MDC Partners (chief accounting officer)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $657,000.

No. 23 David B. Doft

Compensation: $1,669,243

Company: MDC Partners (CFO)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $713,000.

No. 22 Mercedes Erra

Compensation: $1,730,741

Company: Havas (board member, founder of BETC Euro RSCG)

Notes: Her compensation was not listed in 2010. She is the only woman on BI's Advertising Rich List--which tells you something about who makes the real money on Madison Avenue.

No. 21 Jean-Yves Naouri

Compensation: $1,781,269

Company: Publicis (COO)

Notes: CEO Maurice Levy's presumptive heir got a 133 per cent pay raise from 2010. A signal of things to come, perhaps?

No. 20 Michael J. O'Brien

Compensation: $1,822,256

Company: Omnicom (general counsel)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $1.5 million.

No. 19 Mark Read

Compensation: $2.036 million

Company: WPP Digital (CEO)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $1.387 million. Read is a potential successor to CEO Martin Sorrell.

No. 18 David Jones

Compensation: $2,154,644

Company: Euro RSCG (CEO)

Notes: This was Jones' first year in charge of Euro RSCG. His big, debut move will be to ditch the historic Euro RSCG moniker in favour of Havas Worldwide, to match that of its parent company.

There are no employment contracts and no pensions at Havas, GMI's Paul Hodgson notes. Executives invest in special company bonds, and the investments are at risk of loss or growth. The bonds are maturing over the next three years.

No. 17 Philip J. Angelastro

Compensation: $2,457,790

Company: Omnicom (svp/finance)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $1.6 million.

No. 16 Jerry Buhlmann

Compensation: $2,915,527

Company: Aegis (CEO)

Notes: It was Buhlmann's first year in the job.

Aegis' compensation policies are even better than WPP's, Hodgson says, as long-term incentives don't pay out at the median--Buhlmann has to outperform it. 'Everything else looks good here too,' Hodgson says--a rare word of praise from GMI.

No. 15 Jack Klues

Compensation: $2,936,614

Company: Vivaki (CEO)

Notes: 2010 pay was $971,024

No. 14 Philippe Krakowsky

Compensation: $3,554,114

Company: Interpublic Group (evp/strategy and talent officer)

Notes: Up from $3 million in 2010.

No. 13 Kevin Roberts

Compensation: $3,929,892

Company: Saatchi & Saatchi (CEO)

Notes: In 2011, Roberts--the author of 'Lovemarks,' a book about advertising--received roughly twice what he got the year before. In 2010 he took a pay cut, like most of Publicis' top executives.

No. 12 Paul Richardson

Compensation: $4,512,000 million

Company: WPP (finance director)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $3.774 million

No. 11 Frank Mergenthaler

Compensation: $4,547,500

Company: Interpublic (CFO)

Notes: Mergenthaler's pay rose from $4 million in 2010.

No. 10 Robert Philpott

Compensation: $4,603,467

Company: Synovate (CEO)

Notes: Philpott retired at the end of the year and a lot of his stock and options vested at once upon the sale of Synovate to French market research company Ipsos.

No. 9 Nicolas Brien

Compensation: $4,792,665

Company: McCann Worldgroup (CEO)

Notes: His compensation is down from $4.86 million in 2010. Nonetheless, his chauffeur bill is still one of the largest on Madison Avenue.

No. 8 Tom Carroll

Compensation: ~$8.84 million

Company: TBWA Worldwide (CEO)

Notes: Omnicom did not disclose Carroll's compensation in 2011. However, his 2010 package was $6.5 million. The average compensation increase among the top five disclosed executives at Omnicom was 36 per cent. Thus Carroll's 2011 compensation is estimated on that basis.

No. 7 Andrew Robertson

Compensation: ~ $8.976 million

Company: BBDO (CEO)

Notes: Omnicom did not disclose Robertson's compensation in 2011. However, his 2010 package was $6.6 million. The average compensation increase among the top five disclosed executives at Omnicom was 36 per cent. Thus Robertson's 2011 compensation is estimated on that basis.

No. 6 Randall J. Weisenburger

Compensation: $10,768,846

Company: Omnicom (CFO)

Notes: His 2010 pay was $8.2 million.

No. 5 Martin Sorrell

Compensation: $11,676,000

Company: WPP (CEO)

In 2010, Sorrell received $7.4 million in total compensation, His 2011 package was thus a significant jump. Although Sorrell is far from the most lavishly compensated advertising CEO, in the U.K. his salary and pay packet generates perennial headlines.

WPP's 'LEAP' plan requires executives to pledge or purchase shares for co-investment, which subsequently become at risk of total loss if performance targets are not met, GMI's Hodgson notes. There is no vesting for below-median performance for any inactive incentive plan.

Pay is high here -- as has often been the case -- but at least it is related to performance, Hodgson says.

No. 4 Michael I. Roth

Compensation: $12,983,942

Company: Interpublic Group (CEO)

Notes: His pay was up from 2010, which was $10.2 million. Roth recently sold $3.8 million in stock just to pay his tax bill.

'Again, too much subjectivity in determining cash bonus, though at least it is not excessive,' says GMI's Hodgson. Option awards and profits therefrom were excessive, however, as is Roth's severance package. Like Omnicom's Wren, Roth is judged against peers that are far bigger than IPG is: TimeWarner, Disney, etc.

No. 3 John D. Wren

Compensation: $15,420,537

Company: Omnicom (CEO)

Notes: Wren's compensation has been the source of much debate on Wall Street for the last couple of years. During the recession, when OMC bottomed out, management there awarded itself $26.1 million options at bargain prices. After the recession ended, the options provided a multi-million windfall for Wren. As the price of OMC went higher he went back to getting paid in cash rather than options.

In 2011, OMC fell 3 per cent to $44.58 on a revenue increase of 10.6 per cent to $13.8 billion; and a net income increase of nearly 15 per cent to $953 million. Yet he got a 43 per cent pay raise.

Wren also gets paid if he dies: A $20.4 million 'golden coffin' death benefit kicks in if he kicks the bucket

It doesn't stop there.

Wren also took $136,319 of personal time in the company's private aircraft last year--that's vacation travel, not schmoozing clients. He has the most expensive perk package in all of advertising.

GMI's Hodgson says there is too much subjectivity in determining Wren's annual bonus, which is 'ridiculously' high, with a maximum of $24 million. Wren's peer group includes huge companies like News Corp, Disney, Time Warner--which all dwarf the size of Omnicom. Hodgson also says Wren's severance payments are 'excessive.'

No. 2 Miles S. Nadal

Compensation: $23,797,424

Company: MDC Partners (CEO)

Notes: Nadal's pay went up 278 per cent, from just over $6 million in 2010.

The stock declined over the year (from ~$17.52 to ~$12.98) even as revenues grew 37 per cent to about $1 billion. More than half that growth came from acquisitions, however.

The company isn't profitable. It lost $77 million.

MDC claims Nadal's pay is heavily linked to the stock price. But Nadal's package is filled with 'excessive option awards,' grumbles GMI's Paul Hodgson.

No. 1 Maurice Levy

Compensation: $26,180,697 (estimate)

Company: Publicis (CEO)

Notes: Levy's pay is controversial. In 2011 the company reported he received $4,580,697 in total compensation But he is also set to collect $21.6 million in deferred pay, according to Marketing Week's Stuart Smith.

During the recession he took a 2.7 million euro pay cut and received only his base salary--900,000 euros. Now that the Silver Fox is on the verge of retirement, his back pay has come due.

Levy's performance is measured against his counterparts at IPG, Omnicom, and WPP, though some of his awards pay out for performance between lower quartiles and the median, which is standard in the U.S. but nonetheless bad practice, according to GMI's Paul Hodgson.

There will be no base salary for the CEO from January 2012. Instead compensation will consist entirely of incentive pay, which is capped at 5 million euros.

BONUS: Vincent Bolloré

Compensation: $5,089

Company: Havas (board member)

Notes: That's not a typo! Bollore, who has hosted French president Nicolas Sarkozy aboard his yacht, draws only a 4,000 euro annual stipend from Havas. Most of his wealth, of course, is in the stock that he owns in both Havas and Aegis, the two European ad buying giants. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.6 billion.

Bollore's rank shows the distortions that can occur when companies disclose annual income and total management holdings separately. Bollore holds 1 million stock options, 5,000 shares, and 1.3 million warrants-to-acquire in Havas.


The numbers: are from SEC disclosures for American companies and annual reports for European companies. Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the corporate governance consultancy GMI Ratings, reviewed compensation practices at each company and provided commentary.

We took the total annual compensation for each executive, including cash, stock and options that may not have yet vested, as disclosed by the companies themselves.

The rank is thus a measure of each executive's annual income in 2011, NOT a measure of their total holdings or wealth. For instance, many of these executives have lavish severance or retirement packages, and long-term stock holdings, that add to their net worth.

We looked at annual income because that, generally, is the compensation they get that is most tied to performance, according to the companies.

What's missing: Holding companies only name the top five best-paid executives. Some, like Omnicom, have clearly chosen to name only holding company chiefs, not the agency bosses within them. It is highly likely that the CEOs of certain agency brands earn more than the executives on the lower rungs of our ranking. Their compensation, however, has never been properly disclosed.

If you feel we have missed someone, or made an error, please email us.

Now see how the world these guys do business in is falling apart ...

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