Warner Bros. Discovery head named second most ‘overpaid’ CEO

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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been named the second most “overpaid” executive on the Fortune 500 by the magazine.

Fortune publishes an annual list of the top-paid CEOs of companies on its own Fortune 500 index. The “overpaid” list, meanwhile, is generated based on this list using additional methodology that included factors such as stock price, which has a direct effect on shareholders.

Zaslav heads up the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery that resulted from the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. He was awarded a compensation package earlier in 2022 with an estimated value of $247 million. A good portion of that salary, however, is in the form of stock options which aren’t immediately available, so Fortune noted his compensation is actually around $71 million per year according to its estimates.

Prior to the merger, Zaslav was head of Discovery, whose stock underperformed the S&P 500 significantly over his tenure. Fortune calculated Discovery stock delivered a return of 5.8% compared to 9.4% for the broader market over the 10-plus years Zaslav has been in charge.

Looking at data for the past three years, the average entertainment company posted a loss of -4.1%, but Discovery’s loss was nearly quadruple that: -16.9%.

Warner Bros. Discovery is a much different company than Discovery — including being much larger, so Zaslav’s performance under that model has yet to be realized. However, it is known that Discovery took on billions in debt to acquire WarnerMedia — so interest and other expenses related to debt could have significant impacts on the company’s financials for years to come.

Another media executive, meanwhile, Dexter Goei, who leads cable provider Altice cable, topped out as the most overpaid CEO on the Fortune 500, according to the magazine’s methodology. Altice has been struggling in recent years. The company provides cable and broadband Internet service in the New York City tri-state area and also owns the regional cable news channels under the News 12 name.

The analysis comes amid increasing attention to executive compensation among shareholders, lawmakers and the public. Since the 1950s the top executives at many major companies have increased their earnings to astronomical levels while most average employee salaries have remained comparatively low and have not seen significant growth, especially when adjusted for inflation.

Today, the Economic Policy Institute estimates the average CEO makes 351 times the average pay of other employees.