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- CEOs and former CEOs from Google, ViacomCBS, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Disney were the five highest paid media and tech executives in 2019. Their average total compensation was more than $116 million each.
- For most of the executives in our top five, stock awards made up the vast majority of their total compensation.
- In the top five, four are men, four have master’s degrees, and two have doctorates.
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The five highest paid executives in the tech and media space made an average of more than $116 million in 2019, according to total compensation numbers disclosed in their companies’ latest SEC documents. The executives come from Google, CBS, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Disney.
They are four men and one women, and mostly acted as Chief Executive Officers in 2019. Four of the five have a master’s degree, and two of the five have a doctorate.
In the chart below, we show compensation for each executive as it was presented in summary compensation tables in proxy statements, split out by element. The chart shows the five highest-paid executives for which compensation information was disclosed among all 93 companies in the S&P 500 Information Technology and Communications industry sectors (You can see our full database showing compensation for executives in those sectors here.) Hold your cursor over the labels at the top to highlight the different parts of compensation.
In 2019, former Disney CEO Bob Iger had the highest salary for our five executives listed above, at $3 million. However, salary is typically not the majority of an executive compensation package.
For executives, equity often makes up the largest part of compensation. For the highest paid executive, Google’s Sundar Pichai, equity made up 99% of his total reported compensation.
Equity made up more than 90% of total compensation for Intel CEO Robert Swan and AMD CEO Lisa Su, about 41% for Iger (who received a large non-equity incentive award in 2019) and about 30% for former CBS CEO Joseph Ianniello (Ianniello’s largest element of compensation in 2019 — $85 million — was associated with a new employment agreement surrounding the CBS and Viacom merger that happened mid-2019).
For a majority of these executives, their compensation was larger this year due to one-time grants and special events at the company, so the total compensation doesn’t necessarily reflect what the executive would typically be awarded in a normal year.
Here are the career paths that the five highest-paid tech and media executives followed on their way to the top of some of the biggest companies in the world:
Business financial make money capital trading Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet and Google
Sundar Pichai, or Pichai Sundararajan, is the Indian-born tech mogul who now serves as the CEO of both Google and its parent company Alphabet. In 2019, he earned $280.6 million, the vast majority of which was granted through equity.
Part of Google’s compensation strategy is to grant an equity award every few years — the proxy’s official language states that “a named executive officer may not receive an equity award every year, and the corresponding Summary Compensation Table values will be higher in years that he or she receives an equity award compared to years where he or she does not.” Pichai’s equity award in 2019 was $276 million, representing his first first equity award since 2016, when he was granted an award then valued at $199 million.
Pichai grew up in Chennai, India, a town located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. His parents, a stenographer and an engineer, realized when Pichai was young that he had a talent for remembering numbers — he memorized every phone number he dialed on the phone.
After studying engineering at a university in India, he made the move to the US. He received an MS from Stanford and an MBA from Wharton School of Business.
Pichai worked at Applied Materials and McKinsey before being hired at Google in 2004 as the head of product management and development. He was named vice president of product development, then senior vice president, and in 2014 became product chief for Google and the Android operating system.
After being pursued by Twitter and discussed as a possible CEO for Microsoft, Pichai stayed on at Google, and was named CEO of Google when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin reorganized to become Alphabet in August 2015.
Business financial make money capital trading Joseph Ianniello, Former President and Acting CEO and Former Chairman and CEO, CBS
In 2019, Joseph Ianniello acted as the President and Acting Chief Executive Officer of CBS while it merged with Viacom to become ViacomCBS. After the merger closed, Ianniello became the CEO of the CBS business under ViacomCBS briefly, before officially stepping down in January 2020.
The merger left Ianniello the second-highest-compensated media and tech executive in 2019. His total compensation was $125,433,673 according to the most recent proxy statement, with the majority of this sum coming from stock awards ($37.4 million) and payments associated with the termination of his old employment agreement and entering into a new one ($84 million).
Ianniello held various C-suite positions at CBS over the years, most recently chief operating officer, but stepped into the CEO role temporarily when Leslie Moonves resigned after allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
Ianniello grew up in Brooklyn, and earned a degree in business administration from Pace University. He got an MBA from Columbia University, and started his time at CBS in 1997 as head of financial planning. According to Variety, he became CEO Leslie Moonves’ right hand man, making a name for himself in 2009 when he became chief financial officer and improved the firm’s financial standing, turning CBS’ debt issues around and pushing for more diverse revenue streams.
Business financial make money capital trading Robert Swan, CEO, Intel Corp.
Robert Swan became the Chief Executive Officer at Intel Corp. in early 2019. For the 2019 fiscal year, he earned $66.9 million in total reported compensation. The majority of this compensation was in the form of stock awards and one-time awards associated with Swan stepping into the CEO role.
Swan studied business administration at University of Buffalo in undergrad, and then attended Binghamton University for an MBA. After 15 years at General Electric, where he worked in various finance roles, he worked in C-suite positions at numerous companies. His most recent position before joining Intel was at General Atlantic LLC, a growth equity investment firm. He joined Intel in 2016 as the chief financial officer.
In mid-2018, Swan became the interim CEO when former CEO Brian Krzanich stepped down after the disclosure of a past relationship with a subordinate. In 2019, Swan was officially named CEO.
Business financial make money capital trading Lisa Su, President and CEO, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
Lisa Su has been the president and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices since 2014. She made a reported $58.5 million in 2019, with about 90% of that from a stock award. The award was abnormally large in 2019 due to a one-time grant of stock to Su based on her success as CEO for the five years prior.
At age two, Su came to New York City from Thailand. Named one of Forbes’ top 50 women in tech in 2018, Su holds three degrees from Massachussetts Institute of Technology — an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, and a PhD, all three in electrical engineering.
Su spent 13 years at IBM, rising to management roles by the end of her tenure there. After a four-year stint at Freescale Semiconductor, Su joined Advanced Micro Devices as senior vice president and general manager of global business units, was promoted to chief operating officer, and finally named CEO in 2014.
Business financial make money capital trading Bob Iger, Former CEO, Walt Disney
Disney’s Bob Iger earned $47.5 million as CEO in 2019, with half of the total coming from non-equity incentive compensation. In 2017 and 2018, his total compensation was $36.3 million and $65.8 million, respectively.
Iger, celebrated for his leadership at Disney through the company’s acquisitions of Marvel Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, was CEO of Walt Disney until February 2020, when he exchanged the CEO position for an Executive Chair position. However, since COVID-19 hit, he’s still been heavily involved in running the company, according to the New York Times.
Bob Iger grew up on Long Island, went to Ithaca College, and had a brief stint as a weatherman in Ithaca before joining ABC in 1974 as a studio operator. From there, he worked more than 20 different jobs at ABC and Disney (Disney bought ABC in the 90s). In 2005, he was named CEO, and shifted from CEO to Executive Chair in 2020.