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Viacom executives again among America's highest paid

January 28, 2012|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times

Billionaire Sumner Redstone last year got a 39% boost in compensation — to $21 million — for his role as executive chairman of Viacom Inc.

But Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman took home considerably less than he did in the company's previous fiscal year, when compensation totaling $84.5 million made him the highest-paid executive in corporate America.

In 2011, Dauman got $43 million in salary, stock and other benefits, according to the company's proxy filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That represents a 49% decrease.

The fiscal years being compared were not the same length, however: Viacom's fiscal 2011 lasted a standard 12 months, whereas its fiscal 2010 was only nine months long because of a change in its calendar.

Viacom's second in command, Chief Operating Officer Thomas Dooley, collected $34 million in 2011, an amount that exceeded the $33.4-million pay package of Robert Iger, chief executive of the much larger Walt Disney Co.

"Those are big numbers," corporate governance expert Charles Elson said, commenting on the Viacom pay packages.

"Viacom seems to be paying their executives entrepreneurial returns rather than managerial wages to run an established company with long-term assets," Elson said. "There seems to be a disconnect there."

Viacom — which owns Paramount Pictures and cable networks MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central — defended the compensation.

"Almost 90% of our senior executive compensation is performance or equity based, which aligns their interests with those of our stockholders," the company said in a statement.

It's unlikely that stockholders could mount a successful protest over the pay policies: Redstone controls about 80% of the company's voting shares.

Compensation awarded to Dauman and Dooley spiked in 2010 when the two executives signed new employment agreements and received generous one-time stock awards. Dooley's 2010 package was $64.7 million.

Redstone's 2011 compensation was nearly $6 million more than in the previous fiscal year, when his total package at Viacom reached $15 million.

The 88-year-old media mogul and his top two lieutenants, Dauman and Dooley, together collected compensation packages in 2011 totaling nearly $100 million.

"Their 2011 compensation reflects achievement in outstanding operational results," Viacom said, "including double-digit growth in operating income and adjusted net earnings and a significant outperformance of the S&P 500."

The value of Viacom's common stock increased about 7% last year.

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