In the small world of big CEOs, the perks can be spectacular.Drivers, country club memberships, use of company aircraft — those splashy extras are fairly routine. And so are less-splashy extras, with companies often shouldering the cost for the boss’ personal financial planning or annual physical.
All those come on top of the CEO’s paycheck. Counting salary, stock awards and other types of compensation, the typical CEO of a big public company was paid a median $9.6 million last year, according to an Associated Press analysis.
That included $161,337 worth of perks and other personal benefits, up 2 per cent from the year before. Overall pay was up 6 per cent.
Equilar, an executive compensation data company, calculated the CEO pay data for the AP by examining the 322 companies on the S&P 500 that had filed the relevant regulatory disclosures by April 30.
Equilar looked only at companies that had the same CEO for at least two years. In regulatory filings, companies include perks in a category called “all other compensation.” That category also includes other personal benefits that companies don’t classify as perks, such as contributions to the executives’ savings plans.
Among the perks showered on CEOs last year:
— Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia spent $73,230 on a weekend driver for its eponymous founder. It also paid for her personal trainer, “provided in her capacity as on-air talent.”
— Wynn Resorts spent $910,345 letting CEO Stephen Wynn use a company plane for personal travel. It also gave up $503,831 by keeping a suite at the Las Vegas resort constantly reserved for him, and gave him merchandise discounts worth $71,561.
— Chesapeake Energy spent $250,000 to help CEO Aubrey McClendon sort out his personal finances, and $121,570 on personal security for him. Shareholders have taken aim at McClendon for borrowing money from companies that do business with Chesapeake. This month, the company ended a perk that let McClendon buy personal stakes in company wells.
— Avon said in December that it would demote Andrea Jung from the CEO job. But it still spent more than $145,000 on perks for her, including paying for her personal car insurance and a $95,577 car-service allowance. She remains the company’s executive chairman.
Other companies make sure the CEO gets to use what the company makes. Top Goodyear executives get two sets of tires each year. Stanley Black & Decker, the power tool giant, gives company products to executives as a way to promote them inside the company. The CEO got $1,251 worth last year. Disney’s top executives get free access to theme parks and some resorts, plus discounts on merchandise.
Macy’s used to offer its executives a discount on merchandise on top of the regular employee discount, for a total of 40 per cent off. It cut that perk in 2010, saying it wanted to bring its pay policies in line with “best practices.”
Perks count as compensation for executives, who usually have to pay income tax on them. Critics seize on them as proof of the disconnect between wealthy executives and their rank-and-file shareholders and customers.
By some measures, companies are pulling back. An earlier Equilar study found that Fortune 100 companies spent about $229,000 in perks and other personal benefits for their CEOs in 2010. That was down from about $356,000 in 2007.
That’s against the backdrop of the financial crisis, which made executive pay an especially contentious issue, as well as stricter government rules released in 2006 about what companies have to disclose around perks.
Companies say they have to offer perks to attract the best CEOs, and to allow them to devote more time to work. They say annual physicals, home security systems and private plane travel help keep them safe.
Coca-Cola says it offers personal financial planning for its top executives, including up to $13,000 for CEO Muhtar Kent, because many of them have dual citizenship or work outside their home countries, which complicates their tax situations. Professional financial advice “helps to ensure they are compliant with local country laws,” the company says.
FedEx says the roughly $333,000 it spent in security for CEO Fred Smith in the most recent fiscal year was necessary given “the history of direct security threats against FedEx executives and the likelihood of additional threats.”
According to the earlier Equilar study, the amount that Fortune 100 companies spent on security for their top execs more than doubled to about $85,000 in 2010 from $40,000 in 2009.
Deere & Co., which requires CEO Samuel Allen to use company aircraft for all travel, makes note of the company’s “geographic location in the Midwest, outside of a major metropolitan area,” which “makes personal and business travel challenging.” Deere is headquartered in Moline, Ill.
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