Lions Gate CEO Awarded 600,000 Options After Malone’s Starz Swap

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. awarded Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer a grant of 600,000 stock options following a share swap that put billionaire John Malone on the film-production company’s board.

The options bring Feltheimer’s 2015 awarded pay to $29.1 million, making him the 101st highest-paid U.S. executive, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index. The grant was approved by the compensation committee following strong performance and a swap of its stock for shares of Starz, owned by Malone affiliates, Lions Gate said in its proxy statement.

“The fact that his name is in that paragraph suggests that the rest of the board is applauding the relationship,” Amy Yong, an analyst at Macquarie Capital USA Inc., said of Malone.

Feltheimer’s compensation rose from the $22.6 million he was awarded in the company’s 2014 fiscal year, the Bloomberg index shows. Equity awards in that package were meant to pay him for the duration of his five-year contract ending in May 2018, the company said in its previous proxy filed in July 2014.

“We do not currently anticipate that Mr. Feltheimer will receive any additional equity grants during the term,” Lions Gate said in the 2014 document. The company retains discretion to grant additional equity, it said in its proxy filed Wednesday.

Lions Gate shares rose to a record Thursday in New York, closing at $39.02. They have gained 22 percent this year. Peter Wilkes, a spokesman for Santa Monica, California-based Lions Gate, declined to comment.

Malone’s Stake

Malone holds about 3 percent of Lions Gate, according to Wednesday’s proxy. Three CEOs at companies where Malone owns shares are the highest-paid U.S. media executives. Discovery Communications Inc. CEO David Zaslav was awarded $94.9 million and Liberty Global Plc CEO Michael Fries was awarded $139.4 million, the Bloomberg index shows.

Gregory Maffei, the CEO of Liberty Interactive Corp., Liberty Media Corp., Liberty Broadband Corp. and Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings Inc., was paid a combined $57 million at those companies in 2014.

Awarded pay measures what a compensation committee intended to pay an executive, not what was reported by the company in the summary compensation table. It includes salary, cash bonuses and stock awards received during the fiscal year that are valued as of that year-end’s stock price. It accounts for changes in the value of pensions, and includes perks such as club dues and personal use of corporate jets.