Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s Total Compensation in 2021 Rose to $246.6 Million

David Zaslav Discovery Stock Options
David Zaslav

Discovery CEO David Zaslav, already one of the highest-paid executives in America, was given total compensation worth $246.6 million in 2021, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The disclosure comes as Discovery prepares to complete its acquisition of WarnerMedia, which is being spun off from AT&T. The acquisition will result in thousands of job losses as Discovery has promised Wall Street hundreds of millions in cost savings when Discovery and Warner Media combine their operations, forming Warner Bros. Discovery.

The biggest part of Zaslav’s compensation comes from $202.9 million in option awards. 

Zaslav’s salary was $3 million and he got a $4.4 million bonus. He was granted stock awards of $13.2 million and non-equity incentive plans compensation of $22 million.

As previously reported, Zaslav signed a new contract with Discovery last year that called for $190 million in options.

"In 2021, Mr. Zaslav provided extraordinary leadership during another pandemic-impacted year and delivered against our strategic and operational priorities, including the successful launch of Discovery Plus and increases in revenue, AOIBDA and free cash flow," Discovery's compensation committee said in the filing. "The hallmark of Mr. Zaslav’s tremendous 2021 achievements was his initiation of the Warner Media Transaction and his leadership of the negotiation and signing of this historic transaction, as well as his efforts to obtain regulatory approvals and meet other closing conditions, putting us on pace to close during the second quarter of 2022."

Zaslav’s compensation dropped to $37.7 million in 2020 from $45.8 million in 2019.

Eye popping compensation is nothing new for Zaslav. His 2014 compensation came in at $156 million. Zaslav signed a new contract that year and the total included lump-sum equity payment. At the time, the company said that when that deal expired, Zaslav would own a substantial amount of equity in Discovery. 

Other Discovery execs working on the WarnerMedia deal also got raises in 2021.

CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels's total compensation rose to $11.3 million from $6.9 million in 2020. Jean-Briac Perrette, president and CEO for Discovery International, saw his pay jump to $13.4 million from $10.4 million. Bruce Campbell, chief development, distribution and legal officer, received $12.6 million, up from $9.1 million, and chief corporate operating officer David Leavy’s pay rose to $6.5 million from $5.3 million. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.