Comcast Corp.'s highest-paid executives — Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke — experienced compensation deflation last year.
Roberts' pay package shrank 13.3% in 2011 to $26.9 million. That included a performance-based cash bonus of $5.5 million for the 52-year-old executive.
Meanwhile, Burke's compensation dropped a whopping 32% to $23.7 million, which included a performance bonus of $6.7 million. The 53-year-old executive's amount fell dramatically last year, as it was the first time in three years that he did not collect a signing bonus. Burke, who took over management of NBCUniversal last year when Comcast acquired controlling interest in the company, received bonuses of about $10 million in 2009 and 2010 for extending his contract.
The compensation, disclosed Friday in a proxy filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, put the managers of the Philadelphia-based cable and entertainment giant in the middle rungs of corporate pay across the media industry. By comparison, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves was paid $69.9 million last year, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav's package was $52.4 million; Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman received $43 million, Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger collected $31.4 million, and Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeff Bewkes got $25.9 million.
Three years ago, Comcast's top executives agreed to a four-year freeze in their base salary. Roberts' base salary was $2.8 million; Burke's was $2.24 million.
The top Comcast executives could have received much fatter packages last year. The company achieved substantial growth in revenue and free cash flow, but its top executives elected to bring their performance base bonus calculations more in line with how their underlings are paid. In its proxy, Comcast said its operating management's "cash bonuses are based primarily on business unit operating metrics rather than consolidated financial performance."
Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis last year received a total package of $21.9 million, which was a 4% decline from his 2010 compensation. In contrast, Executive Vice President David L. Cohen accepted more stock and other bonuses, which boosted his take 19% to $15 million.
Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit collected $18.5 million in 2011, including a $3-million cash bonus. This was the first time that Comcast was required to disclose Smit's earnings. Smit joined Comcast two years ago but did not become a top corporate officer until last year, when he was named chief executive of Comcast Cable.
And Ralph J. Roberts, the 92-year co-founder of the cable company, collected his customary $1-a-year salary.