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Executives’ 2017 Pay Fell at Charter

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.