Charter communications chair and CEO Tom Rutledge fell from the top of the heap of the most highly paid media executives in 2017, reporting total compensation of $7.8 million, nearly $91 million less than the $98.5 million he took in during 2016, when he received one-time stock option awards.
Rutledge was 2016’s highest-paid CEO in the U.S., according to Money magazine — Estee Lauder’s Fabrizio Freda was a distant second with $48.4 million. But Rutledge’s first-place ranking was due mainly to massive one-time stock options. Rutledge received $77.9 million in option awards in 2016, but none in 2017, according to Charter’s year-end proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission March 15. The cable chief also did not receive stock awards in 2017, compared with $10.1 million in 2016. His base salary, at $2 million, stayed the same.
Other Charter executives also saw big declines in total compensation, including chief operating officer John Bickham, whose total take fell from $47.4 million in 2016 to $4.9 million in 2017, and chief financial officer Christopher Winfrey.
Winfrey’s compensation dropped from $29.2 million in 2016 to $2.1 million in 2017, while senior EVP David Ellen’s haul fell from $22.1 million in 2016 to $3.1 million in 2017. Lack of option awards were again the culprit — $35 million for Bickham, $23 million for Winfrey and $17.8 million for Ellen in 2016. None of those executives received option awards in 2017.
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