With a little help from the 'Trump Bump'

By Alan Murray
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

I hope you had a great Memorial Day, and spent some part of the day thinking about those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms.

The New York Times used the holiday weekend for a different purpose: to do its latest takedown of executive pay. It noted that CEO pay packages climbed in 2016 after slipping in 2015, and credited the “Trump bump” in the post-election stock market for much of the surge. The story included this interesting statistic: President Trump has met with 307 “highly paid executives” since his inauguration, including 41 of the 200 most highly paid. The Times‘ point: high CEO pay helped feed the populist anger that swept Trump into office, but since getting there the President has spent a lot of time with people whose “views on taxes and economic inequality tend to differ from those of average Americans.”

How do CEOs really view the executive pay issue? We are in the field right now with our Fortune 500 CEO survey that includes a question on just that point. It shows that four out of five CEOs acknowledge high CEO pay is a problem. But what kind of problem? The majority agree with the statement that “CEO pay is fairly set by the marketplace in most cases” but “nevertheless has undermined public support for business.” Only a minority believe—as I do—that the “market for CEO pay doesn’t work properly.” The results of the survey will be published in the Fortune 500 issue of the magazine.

Who were the big winners in the pay sweepstakes last year? The Times devoted two pages of its Sunday print edition to list the 200 most highly paid executives, which you can read online here. For brevity, we’ll stick to the top ten, with total pay packages ranging from $98 million to $33 million, in descending order:

1) Thomas Rutledge, Charter Communications

2) Leslie Moonves, CBS

3) David O’Connor, Madison Square Garden

4) Fabrizio Freda, Estée Lauder

5) Mark Parker, Nike

6) Mark Hurd, Oracle

7) Robert Iger, Disney

8) Safra Catz, Oracle

9) David Zaslav, Discovery Communications

10) Robert Kotick, Activision Blizzard

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