Connect with us


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



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 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.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Central Banks

Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve

Public trust in the Federal Reserve chair has hit its lowest point in 20 years. Get the details in this infographic.



The Briefing

  • Gallup conducts an annual poll to gauge the U.S. public’s trust in the Federal Reserve
  • After rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, public trust has fallen to a 20-year low


Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve

Each year, Gallup conducts a survey of American adults on various economic topics, including the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.

More specifically, respondents are asked how much confidence they have in the current Fed chairman to do or recommend the right thing for the U.S. economy. We’ve visualized these results from 2001 to 2023 to see how confidence levels have changed over time.

Methodology and Results

The data used in this infographic is also listed in the table below. Percentages reflect the share of respondents that have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence.

YearFed chair% Great deal or Fair amount
2023Jerome Powell36%
2022Jerome Powell43%
2021Jerome Powell55%
2020Jerome Powell58%
2019Jerome Powell50%
2018Jerome Powell45%
2017Janet Yellen45%
2016Janet Yellen38%
2015Janet Yellen42%
2014Janet Yellen37%
2013Ben Bernanke42%
2012Ben Bernanke39%
2011Ben Bernanke41%
2010Ben Bernanke44%
2009Ben Bernanke49%
2008Ben Bernanke47%
2007Ben Bernanke50%
2006Ben Bernanke41%
2005Alan Greenspan56%
2004Alan Greenspan61%
2003Alan Greenspan65%
2002Alan Greenspan69%
2001Alan Greenspan74%

Data for 2023 collected April 3-25, with this statement put to respondents: “Please tell me how much confidence you have [in the Fed chair] to recommend the right thing for the economy.”

We can see that trust in the Federal Reserve has fluctuated significantly in recent years.

For example, under Alan Greenspan, trust was initially high due to the relative stability of the economy. The burst of the dotcom bubble—which some attribute to Greenspan’s easy credit policies—resulted in a sharp decline.

On the flip side, public confidence spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was likely due to Jerome Powell’s decisive actions to provide support to the U.S. economy throughout the crisis.

Measures implemented by the Fed include bringing interest rates to near zero, quantitative easing (buying government bonds with newly-printed money), and emergency lending programs to businesses.

Confidence Now on the Decline

After peaking at 58%, those with a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the Fed chair have tumbled to 36%, the lowest number in 20 years.

This is likely due to Powell’s hard stance on fighting post-pandemic inflation, which has involved raising interest rates at an incredible speed. While these rate hikes may be necessary, they also have many adverse effects:

  • Negative impact on the stock market
  • Increases the burden for those with variable-rate debts
  • Makes mortgages and home buying less affordable

Higher rates have also prompted many U.S. tech companies to shrink their workforces, and have been a factor in the regional banking crisis, including the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Gallup (2023)

Data Notes: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-25, 2023, with a random sample of –1,013—adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on this sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. See source for details.

Continue Reading