Moonves’ $62 Million at CBS Shows Star Pay for Media Executives

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves received $62.2 million in total compensation in 2012, a drop of 11 percent that still places him among the top-earning executives in the U.S.

Moonves’s pay, reported according to regulatory standards, consisted of salary, bonus, awards, option awards, a gain in his pension and other compensation, according to a regulatory filing today by New York-based CBS, owner of the most-watched TV network. His 2011 total was $69.9 million.

Overall compensation for Moonves, 63, was almost five times the average of CEOs in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, underscoring the high pay of media executives relative to other industries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Last year, media executives earned almost double the pay of Wall Street chiefs whose income drew scrutiny from Congress and activists.

“Under Mr. Moonves’ leadership, CBS posted record results in 2012, with its highest revenues, operating income, and EPS since it became a standalone company in ’06,” the company said in a statement. “The company’s content once again led the industry in 2012 and CBS was at the forefront of monetizing that content in a host of new, incremental ways. Mr. Moonves’ compensation is reflective of all this success.”

The CEOs of the 16 media companies in the S&P 500 that have reported total 2012 compensation, including Walt Disney Co. and CBS, took home an average of $24.2 million last year, according to Bloomberg research. The average of all companies that have reported was $13.4 million.

CBS rose 0.6 percent to $46.57 yesterday in New York. The stock has advanced 22 percent this year, compared with 11 percent for the S&P 500.

Stock Gains

Discovery Communications Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav was the next highest-paid media executive in the index with $49.9 million in total compensation last year, based on Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Shares of the Silver Spring, Maryland-based company rose 55 percent in 2012, almost four times the S&P’s 16 percent total return. New York-based CBS, owner of the most-watched TV network, returned 42 percent including dividends.

Discovery declined to comment on today’s story. “We believe that our executive compensation program plays a key role in the company’s operating and financial success,” Discovery said in its April 4 proxy statement.

The nature of the entertainment industry, with some actors and directors earning tens of millions of dollars annually, likely plays a role in larger pay at those companies, according to Paul Sweeney, a Bloomberg Industries analyst.

Staying High

“Executives think they need pay consistent with the talent,” Sweeney said. “If Tom Cruise is worth $20 million what is Sumner Redstone worth?”

Redstone, CBS’s chairman, received $31.3 million in total pay from the company last year. He received $20.4 million from Viacom Inc., which he also controls.

“If the company becomes high paid, it tends to stay high paid,” said Graef Crystal, a consultant to Bloomberg on executive compensation. “It’s like it is passed on from father to son. If someone is making a fortune and you get the job, you can’t be an idiot. You have to get the same amount of money.”

Executive pay was an issue at Disney’s March 6 annual meeting, where the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted against Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger’s board nomination, citing the company’s compensation policy and the combined chairman and chief executive positions that Iger holds.

Voting Trends

Shareholders rejected a proposal to split those jobs by almost two-to-one. A non-binding resolution to approve the company’s executive pay package was approved by 58 percent of votes cast.

Iger received $40.2 million in total compensation in fiscal 2012, according to company filings. Disney shares returned 76 percent over those 12 months, compared with 30 percent for the S&P 500, according to Bloomberg data.

“Disney’s performance during Mr. Iger’s tenure has been nothing short of spectacular,” the company said in February before the annual meeting. “Disney has delivered results that speak for themselves.”

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Aerospace and defense company executives were the second-highest paid group at $19 million on average, according to Bloomberg calculations. Financial executives ranked 17th at $12.4 million.

The 11-stock S&P 500 Aerospace & Defense Index rose 12 percent last year.

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