Chief executive officers are the highest-ranking corporate executives, and their compensation often reflects as much. Across the 350 largest companies in the United States, the average CEO made $14.5 million in 2019. All things being equal, it would take the typical American about 400 years to earn that much.
Not all CEOs are compensated equally, however. At some of America’s largest companies, chief executives make well more than double the amount the typical CEO earns, or hundreds of times more than most of the people who work for them.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed available financial disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by the 100 largest publicly traded U.S. companies by revenue to identify America’s highest-paid CEO. All executives on this list of finalists were ranked by their total compensation in fiscal 2019, while company revenue was listed for the most recent fiscal year. In addition to company revenue and CEO compensation, the ratio of CEO pay to the typical employee came from financial disclosures filed with the SEC. We only considered CEOs who are currently with their company. Most of the finalists head companies in the tech or financial services sectors.
The vast majority of working Americans are paid primarily through a wage or salary. For CEOs of major corporations, this is not the case. Typically, multimillion-dollar executive compensation packages consist largely of stock options and incentives designed to reward performance. For the chief executives on the list, base salary often does not exceed $1.5 million and accounts for a relatively small share of their overall pay.
Whether the corporate leaders on the list are overpaid is a matter of debate. What is not, however, is that these executives ultimately are responsible for the success or failure of their business, effectively affecting the interests of thousands of employees and shareholders.
> Company: Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL)
> Annual compensation: $280,621,552
> Company revenue: $161.9 billion
> CEO pay ratio: 1,085 times more than the typical employee
As CEO of Google’s parent company, Pichai’s compensation in fiscal 2019 totaled $280.6 million. That by far was the most of any CEO of America’s largest public companies. Most of that money (about $277 million) came in the form of stock awards tied to Pichai’s recent promotion. Pichai, who had been CEO of the company’s subsidiary Google since 2015, was named CEO of Alphabet in December 2019. The value of his stock options eclipsed his base salary of $650,000. Larry Page, the previous CEO of Alphabet and the company’s co-founder, had a base salary of just $1 that year.
Google currently faces several antitrust lawsuits, including one brought on by nearly 40 U.S. states and territories, alleging that the tech giant has an illegal monopoly on search.