WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar received total compensation of $52.2 million in 2020, mostly in the form of stock awards that will vest over a four-year period, according to parent AT&T’s annual proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday.
Kilar, a founder of online video pioneer Hulu, was hired to take the helm of WarnerMedia in May, about a month before the launch of its HBO Max streaming service. Kilar overhauled the content unit, shaking up the management ranks and upending traditional theatrical movie windows by releasing all of Warner Bros. Studios' 2021 film slate on streaming and in theaters on the same day.
According to the proxy statement, AT&T offered Kilar a generous compensation package “with a heavier mix of stock-based awards'' to attract him to the job and to provide an incentive to create shareholder value. AT&T’s compensation committee, with the advice of a compensation consultant, arrived at a package including $2.5 million in annual base salary (he received $1.7 million in 2020), $2.5 million in annual short-term incentives and $48 million in restricted stock awards. While those stock awards were included in his 2020 compensation, they vest over a four-year period, putting their actual annual value at about $12 million. Overall, AT&T said it expects Kilar’s total annual compensation to work out to about $17 million annually.
Other AT&T executives saw their pay decline in 2020, mainly through voluntary reductions tied to the pandemic.
AT&T CEO John Stankey gave up 50% of his base salary between July 1 and Dec. 31 to help ease the pain of the COVID-19 lockdowns, but still managed to take in more than $21 million in total compensation in 2020, according to the proxy statement.
Stankey’s base salary fell to $2.05 million in 2020 (down 29.3% from $2.9 million in 2019), but a 42% rise in stock awards to $13.5 million helped lessen the overall compensation blow. All in, Stankey received $21.02 million in total compensation in 2020, down 6% from the $22.5 million he received in the prior year.
Former AT&T executive chairman Randall Stephenson, who also pledged to give up 50% of his base salary in July, finished the year with $29.2 million in total compensation, down 8.8% from $32.03 million in the prior year. Stephenson’s base salary was halved to $900,000 from $1.8 million in the prior year, and his stock awards ticked up slightly (6%) to $21 million in the period. Stephenson retired on Jan. 21 and former Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard took his place.
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