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Big Paydays for the Chiefs in the Media

• New York Times

Top executives at the country’s largest media companies continued to reel in multimillion-dollar pay packages in 2009, a year of widespread cost-cutting throughout the industry. In several cases, the packages even increased from the year before.

At the top of the list is Leslie Moonves, chief executive of the CBS Corporation, whose pay package in 2009 totaled almost $43 million, more than twice what he made in 2008, according to an analysis by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm.

Not far behind was Viacom’s chief executive, Philippe P. Dauman, who was paid nearly $34 million, a 22 percent increase over 2008. Sumner M. Redstone, who controls CBS and Viacom, was paid more than $33 million from the two companies combined.

“Anybody who reads the business section knows the margins are being squeezed at media companies, so the fact that there are these huge packages makes no sense,” said James F. Reda, the founder of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm with offices in New York and Atlanta.

At Comcast, the two highest-paid executives, Brian L. Roberts and Stephen B. Burke, were paid $25 million and $31 million. Mr. Roberts’s pay was essentially the same as the year before, while Mr. Burke’s increased about $12 million, much of it because of one-time bonuses related to the company’s purchase of NBC Universal.

For several executives, it was more lucrative to be running a media company in 2009, however wobbly it might be, than a large financial firm, where many boards cut executive pay after the federal financial bailout.

John G. Stumpf, the head of Wells Fargo, was the highest-paid financial executive, earning an $18.8 million package, according to an analysis by Equilar. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, made $41 million in 2008 and less than $1 million in 2009, Equilar said, not including a $9 million payout he received this year that was deemed to be for work done the year before but is not included in Equilar’s calculations.

The bankers’ pay will most likely return to past levels if financial reform passes, Mr. Reda said, as Washington’s spotlight will shift elsewhere and the banks will have less incentive to stay in the public’s good graces.

Mr. Reda said, “What is the government going to do after financial reform? Take away their birthday?”

Despite the hard times at many media companies and the uncertainty of maintaining revenue in the digital future, investors did not shy away last year. The stock of CBS jumped 74 percent in 2009, and Viacom’s stock rose 56 percent.


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