The Big Payday Reckoning Hollywood Faces, And What Wall Street Wants
Exorbitant chief executive pay is under scrutiny as studio stock prices plunge and a recession year’s shareholder meetings amid lackluster earnings and a looming recession
Hollywood quietly achieved a record this year when it comes to the lucrative compensation packages awarded to CEOs running all the nation’s major television, movie, and streaming businesses — but it’s becoming clear that come next year, shareholders will take CEOs to task where it really hurts: their paychecks.
Hardly an eyebrow was raised when Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav took home $246 million in compensation for 2021, more than six times his 2020 pay (and well above his all-time high of $156.1 million in 2014). It was the most money paid to a studio CEO for one year’s work — and higher than the combined paychecks for the CEOs of Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Comcast, Lionsgate and Fox.
There’s growing sentiment that shareholders who have been begrudgingly complacent with $20 million to $50 million paydays seen in the past will soon change their tune. Exorbitant pay can be somewhat tolerated for companies making cash hand over fist, but those days might be coming to an end and a day of reckoning approaching.
Can The Intersect pay me $246 million a year? Probably not, but you can help.
“Compensation at $246 million is going to be hard to explain regardless of if they are making money,” one top investment executive at a major state pension fund that owns shares of both Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery in its portfolio told TheWrap. “We’ve had to grin and bear it for the most part when the company is making money. But, how do you explain a high compensation level when the company isn’t performing well?”