Credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

Who are the 10 highest-paid CEOs in the world?

Most self-made billionaires are entrepreneurs but there's still plenty of cash atop the corporate greasy pole.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 08 Aug 2016

Figuring out who the highest-paid CEO in the world is isn’t straightforward. Different countries have different rules about disclosure of executive pay. The complex structures used to calculate compensation make it even more complicated.

Private companies have no obligation to publish theirs, so don’t expect to find Richard Branson or Philip Green here. And of course the figures don’t include dividend payments or income from selling equity; Berkshire Hathaway sage Warren Buffet’s compensation was technically ‘just’ $470,000 last year but it’s probably safe to say his total income was somewhat higher than that.

Rich lists compiled by the Sunday Times and other media outlets in different countries are so often dominated by self-made entrepreneurs – those who had a big idea and took a big risk that paid off big time. Many of the rest have been lucky enough to inherit their fortunes. But corporate creatures who spend their lives climbing the greasy pole can make a fair wedge too.

Most of the top 10 are American men, as you might expect. While Asia might be ascendant and Europe has the odd stand-out, Yankee Doodle is still bringing home most of the bacon. But there are few names those with a passing interest in business will recognise - the rockstar bosses of Facebook, Apple and Microsoft come behind relative unknowns from Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. And while we’ve seen more women netting rewards of £10m plus (notably Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s precariously-footed CEO, who got $42.1m (£28.7m) in 2014), the top tier of the CEO pay leagues remains an all-male club for now. 

All figures are for 2015 unless otherwise stated.

10 of the highest-paid CEOs in the world

1.  Patrick Soon-Shiong, NantKwest: $147.6m

Patrick who? The little-known South Africa-born surgeon made headlines this week after it emerged he would receive $132.2m worth of stock options and $15m in restricted stock from NantKwest, the equally unknown biotech company he floated in 2015.

2. Joe Kiani, Masimo Corporation: $119m

Iranian-American Kiani founded Masimo, a medical technology company, back in 1989. According to the company's website, 'Mr. Kiani believes in turning yesterday's impossibilities into tomorrow's possibilities and challenging the status quo to move it forward,' - whatever that means.   

3. Michael Fries, Liberty Global: $111.9m (2014)

A 30-year veteran of the cable industry, Fries runs Liberty global, the massive parent company of Virgin Media. 

4. Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP: £70.4m ($103m)

By far Britain’s best-paid boss, Sir Martin Sorrell is set to receive what’s thought to be the second-highest remuneration package for a FTSE 100 director ever. Yesterday the WPP founder hit back at his critics, saying ‘I'm not embarrassed about the growth of the company from two people in one room in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1985 to 190,000 people in 112 countries and a leadership position in our industry.’

5. Sundar Pichai, Google: $100.5m

The man handed the reins of Google (now a subsidiary of new parent company Alphabet) can’t say he’s not been given a fittingly high reward. As well as the $100.5m compensation package he was given for 2015, Sundar Pichai (pictured) has been handed $199m worth of shares that will vest over the next three years.

6. Paul Taubman, PJT Partners: $75.4m 

A Wall Street deal-maker, Taubman doesn't even have his own Wikipedia, but could restrospectively end up being 2015's highest-paid CEO if he meets ambitious targets to triple his investment firm's size. 

7. Mario Gabelli, Gamco: $75m

There aren’t that many finance bosses in the CEO pay top tier but asset management entrepreneur Mario Gabelli makes the cut. He founded Gamco in 1977 and is now a major philanthropist.

8. Gregory Maffei, Liberty Media and Liberty Interactive: $73.8m  (2014)

With a smaller salary than his colleague Michael Fries (above), Maffei is responsible for running the other components of John Malone’s Liberty empire.

9. Mark McLaughlin, Palo Alto Networks: $66.6m 

McLaughlin probably won't be the last exec to make big bucks from cyber security. He was previously CEO of Verisign. 

10. David Hamamoto, Northstar Realty Finance: $60.3m (2014)

A former Goldman Sachser, Hamamoto’s Northstar is an asset management firm focused on real estate. 

Image credit: Maurizio Pesce, Flickr


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