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Here’s How Much the Top CEOs of S&P 500 Companies Get Paid

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Here's How Much Top CEOs of S&P 500 Companies Get Paid

How Much the Top CEOs of S&P 500 Companies Get Paid

How much do the CEOs from some of the world’s most important companies get paid, and do these top CEOs deliver commensurate returns to shareholders?

Today’s infographic comes to us from HowMuch.net and it visualizes data on S&P 500 companies to see if there is any relationship between CEO pay and stock performance.

For Richer or Poorer

To begin, let’s look at the highest and lowest paid CEOs on the S&P 500, and their associated performance levels. Data here comes from a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Below are the five CEOs with the most pay in 2018:

RankCEOCompanyPay (2018)Shareholder Return
#1David ZaslavDiscovery, Inc.$129.4 million10.5%
#2Stephen AngelLinde$66.1 million3.1%
#3Bob IgerDisney$65.6 million20.4%
#4Richard HandlerJefferies$44.7 million-14.9%
#5Stephen MacMillanHologic$42.0 million11.7%

Last year, David Zaslav led top CEOs by taking home $129.4 million from Discovery, Inc., the parent company of various TV properties such as the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network, and other non-fiction focused programming. He delivered a 10.4% shareholder return, when the S&P 500 itself finished in negative territory in 2018.

Of the mix of highest-paid CEOs, Bob Iger of Disney may be able to claim the biggest impact. He helped close a $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, while also leading Disney’s efforts to launch a streaming service to compete with Netflix. The market rewarded Disney with a 20.4% shareholder return, while Iger received a paycheck of $65.6 million.

Now, let’s look at the lowest paid CEOs in 2018:

RankCEOCompanyPay (2018)Shareholder Return
#1Larry PageAlphabet$1-0.8%
#2Jack DorseyTwitter$119.7%
#3A. Jayson AdairCopart$203,00082.2%
#4Warren BuffettBerkshire Hathaway$398,0003.0%
#5Valentin GapontsevIPG Photonics$1.7 million-47.1%

On the list of lowest paid CEOs, we see two tech titans (Larry Page and Jack Dorsey) that have each opted for $1 salaries. Of course, they are both billionaires that own large amounts of shares in their respective companies, so they are not particularly worried about annual paychecks.

Also appearing here is Warren Buffett, who is technically paid $100,000 per year by Berkshire Hathaway plus an amount of “other compensation” that fluctuates annually. While this is indeed a modest salary, the Warren Buffett Empire is anything but modest in size – and the legendary value investor currently holds a net worth of $84.3 billion.

Finally, it’s worth noting that while J. Jayson Adair of Copart was one of the lowest paid CEOs at $203,000 in 2018, the company had the best return on the S&P 500 at 82.2%. Today, the company’s stock price still sits near all-time highs.

Maxing Returns

Finally, let’s take a peek at the CEOs that received the highest shareholder returns, and if they seem to correlate with compensation at all.

RankCEOCompanyPay (2018)Shareholder Return
#1A. Jayson AdairCopart$203,00082.2%
#2Lisa SuAMD$13.4 million79.6%
#3François Locoh-DonouF5 Networks$6.9 million65.4%
#4Sanjay MehrotraMicron Technology$14.2 million64.3%
#5Ken XieFortinet$6.8 million61.2%

Interestingly, three of highest performing CEOs – in terms of shareholder returns – actually took home smaller amounts than the median S&P 500 annual paycheck of $12.4 million. This includes the aforementioned A. Jayson Adair, who raked in only $203,000 in 2018.

That said, there is a good counterpoint to this as well.

Of the five CEOs who had the worst returns, four of them made less than the median value of $12.4 million, while one remaining CEO took home slightly more. In other words, both the best and worst performing CEOs skew towards lower-than-average pay to some degree.

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Ranked: Top 10 Single-Day Market Cap Gains

Nvidia broke the record for the largest single-day market cap gains after adding nearly $250B on Feb. 22, 2024.

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The 10 Biggest Single-Day Market Cap Gains

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. tech stocks have led in terms of market cap gains, sometimes boosting their valuations by hundreds of billions of dollars in a single day.

In this graphic, we’ve ranked the largest single-day gains ever recorded, using data from Bloomberg.

Top 10 List

The top 10 list includes just 5 companies, and all are based in the U.S.

RankDateCompanySingle-day
Market Cap Gain
(USD billions)
1Feb 22, 2024NVIDIA$247.0
2Feb 2, 2024Meta$196.8
3Nov 10, 2022Apple$190.9
4Feb 4, 2022Amazon$190.8
5May 25, 2023NVIDIA$184.1
6Jan 28, 2022Apple$178.9
7Jul 31, 2020Apple$169.0
8Oct 28, 2022Apple$150.5
9Mar 13, 2020Microsoft$150.4
10Apr 26, 2023Microsoft$148.3

To put these massive gains into context, consider this: As of May 2023, the average market cap of an S&P 500 company was $30.4 billion.

Meta’s $197B Record Didn’t Last Long

On Feb 2. 2024, Meta set a new record for the largest single-day gain after reporting strong quarterly earnings, as well as announcing $50B in share repurchases and its first ever dividend payment.

This record lasted only 20 days, however, as Nvidia’s massive Q4 2024 earnings beat sent it to all-time highs. The firm is now nearing a $2T valuation, firmly placing it among the world’s most valuable corporations.

More on Nvidia’s Earnings…

Nvidia reported $12.3B in net income during Q4 2024, which is 769% higher than the same quarter last year. Revenues are also up 265% from last year, largely driven by demand for its AI chips like the H100 Tensor Core GPU.

Nvidia’s earnings have seemingly shifted the AI craze into another gear, boosting other chip stocks like AMD and Super Micro Computer (SMCI) to double-digit % gains for the day (Feb 22).

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