2020’s Highest-Paid CEOs Revealed

By Adriaan Brits Friday, June 19, 2020

The world's wealthiest CEOs rake in millions to billions every year with their success stories. From Arora to Zaslav, we’ve compiled a list of the highest-paid CEOs of 2020 and their notable feats.

Elon Musk

According to the New York Times, Elon Musk blew his competition out of the water in 2018 after being awarded nearly $2.3 billion. To put it in perspective, Musk’s total compensation from Tesla is equal to the next 65 executives on the Times list. The “internet’s messiah” has earned $2.2 billion in the previous year, a figure any other CEO could only dream of. Musk’s compensation package from Tesla (approved by Tesla’s board in 2018) awarded options to him if Tesla hit specific market capitalization milestones over a decade.

The $2.3 billion figure represents an estimate of what the options could be worth, depending on if he manages to meet the company’s ambitious performance goals, and on how Tesla’s stock prices evolve over the next decade.

David M. Zaslav

David Zaslav, the CEO of mass media company Discovery, is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. His company recently attained Scripps Network Interactive Inc., which makes up over 20% of the ad-supported pay-TV viewership in the US.

Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million, fuelled by stock options and grants awarded with his new employment contract. He received $103 million in Discovery’s stock options in connection with the new contract, and another $14.8 million in stock awards, with an additional $9 million bonus and $3 million regular salary. Even though Zaslav’s stock compensation won’t come to fruition for years, the nine-figure number rolled him into the second-highest-paid CEO of 2020 so far.

Nikesh Arora

International CEOs make headlines for their high pay packages. A regular contributor to these CEO compensation news cycles has been high-profile business executive Nikesh Arora of Palo Alto. Arora's total compensation in 2018 was $130 million, including stock compensations that will be distributed over seven years. Let’s not forget about the stock options that will fully vest if share prices of Palo Alto Networks quadruple.

As the CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Arora invested $20 million personally by buying shares as proof of commitment. Even though it’s not much compared to what the cybersecurity firm earns, it has a market cap of $18.93 billion. In 2018, the total revenue of the third fiscal quarter jumped 31% year-on-year, leading $567.1 million to an astonishing $721 million. Anecdotally, he’s been previously christened as India's "Elvis of business".

Safra Catz

Safra Catz has a salary of $950,000 as CEO of Oracle co-operation; in 2018 alone, she made $40.7 million in compensation. She attained this position in 2014 and has greatly enhanced the multinational computer technology company in the past six years. While she did suffer significant drops in her income in previous years, she has remained the highest-paid female CEO in the United States.

She is credited with spearheading Oracle’s aggressive acquisition strategy, helping close more than 100 acquisitions since 2005. After receiving a $40.7 million salary in 2017, she became one of the highest-paid female executives.

Robert A. Iger

Robert A. Iger is the CEO of one of the most famous and recognizable companies in the world: Walt Disney. He achieved the CEO position in 2005, and ever since then he has been the driving force behind Disney purchasing other famous brands, such as Pixar, Lucas Films, and even Marvel Entertainment.

Over his 15 years leading the company, Iger built Disney into one of the world’s largest and most admired media and entertainment companies making him one of the media industry's highest-paid executives. His base salary of $3 million makes up a small percentage of his total compensation. Iger’s $47.5-million pay package in fiscal 2019 included a cash bonus of $21.8 million, with additional stock awards and options totaling $19.7 million.

About the Author

Headshot for author Adriaan Brits
As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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