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CBS' Leslie Moonves tops media pay scale at $69.9 million

Company credits a 42% surge in stock price for a compensation package that is larger than those for media executives at Viacom, Disney and Time Warner.

April 14, 2012|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times

"Two Broke Girls" and one rich CEO.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves vaulted to the top of the media pay ladder in 2011 with a compensation package valued at $69.9 million, according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 62-year-old executive's package jumped 21% over the $57.7 million that he reaped in 2010. For the last two years, Moonves has received bonuses of $27.5 million.

Moonves' base salary was $3.5 million. Last year, he also received nearly $8.5 million in stock and options awards valued at $27.3 million.

"This seems out of control," said executive compensation consultant James F. Reda. "Usually a bonus is two times a person's base salary, so that would be $7 million. I'm not sure how CBS got to $27 million. And he received stock and options worth $35 million? What is the CBS board thinking?"

CBS defended the package, noting that CBS' stock soared 42% last year.

"CBS significantly outpaced the industry in 2011 in terms of shareholder return," the media company said in a statement. "In fact, the company is the second best performing stock in the entire S&P 500 since March of 2009.... The vast majority of this year's pay is once again keyed to performance-based measures, closely aligning the overall value of the compensation with that of the company's shareholders."

The stock closed Friday at $32.50 a share, an eye-popping increase over the $4 a share that it was trading for in 2009, following the market collapse. Investors have bid up the stock, in part, due to the anticipation that CBS will rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in political advertising this year as candidates and political action committees try to influence the outcome of elections.

The company's assets include the CBS broadcast network, home to such hit shows as "Two Broke Girls," "NCIS" and "Survivor," local TV and radio stations and billboards. CBS also owns the premium pay cable channel Showtime and the Simon & Schuster publishing house.

"There has been upward movement in the market, which is good, but the question is 'should you give someone an entrepreneurial award for non-entrepreneurial risk?' " asked Charles Elson, a corporate governance professor at the University of Delaware. "It's a big company, it's been around for a while and even in a bad year, he would get about $20 million."

CBS also provided Moonves with $557,600 in transportation-related benefits. He maintains homes on both coasts as he works out of the company's West Coast offices in Studio City as well as its New York headquarters.

The company also spent about $500,000 to build a home theater in his Beverly Hills house "for the purpose of screening and evaluating television and film programming."

The second-highest-paid executive at CBS was Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone, who was awarded a $20.3-million package in 2011. That means the 88-year-old mogul, who has been slowing down in recent years, collected more than $41 million in 2011 for his executive positions at CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman made $43 million in 2011, considerably less than his 2010 package of $84.5 million.

Viacom and CBS traditionally lead the media pack in executive compensation because of their dual-stock structure. Redstone controls nearly 80% of the voting stock, making it difficult for other shareholders to mount a successful protest over pay practices.

Though not in the same stratosphere of Apple Inc.'s new chief executive, Tim Cook, whose compensation totaled $378 million in 2011, Moonves' pay is still considerably higher than his peers in the media world.

For example, Moonves received more than twice that of Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger, who collected $31.4 million in fiscal 2011, and nearly three times the amount of Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, who took in $25.9 million. Both Disney and Time Warner are much larger than CBS.

News Corp.'s Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch raked in $33.3 million in 2011 running his global empire. Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav collected a package valued at $52.4 million last year.

meg.james@latimes.com

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