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These were the top-paid CEOs of 2020

April 27, 2021, 3:19 AM UTC

While millions of Americans struggled to make ends meet in 2020, America’s top CEOs compensation packages were as generous as ever—and, in some cases, historically grandiose.

A study from the Equilar Institute, which studies corporate leadership, reports median total compensation for CEOs it examined came in at $15.5 million—a 1.6% decline from 2019. A separate report in The New York Times, though, folds in salary, stock grants, bonuses and other benefits through last Friday and finds significantly higher overall pay packages.

The Times study, in fact, values 2020 compensation of the three highest-paid CEOS at over $547 million. And familiar names like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are nowhere on that list.

In terms of straight compensation, Equilar ranks General Electric’s Larry Culp at the top of the list, earning $72,728,233 last year, a 208% increase. Nike’s John Donahoe II came in second with $53,499,980, the same amount as 2019. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella made $44,321,788. And Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications saw his compensation soar 353% to $38,670,620.

Factor in the other parts of the package, though, and the numbers get a lot bigger – and the order of who earned the most differs wildly. Here’s what the Times study found:

  • Chad Richison (Paycom) – $211.13 million
  • Amir Dan Rubin (1Life Healthcare) – $199.05 million
  • John Legere (T-Mobile) – $137.2 million
  • Larry Culp (General Electric) – $73.19 million
  • Chris Nassetta (Hilton) – $55.87 million

While some CEOs took pay cuts at the start of the pandemic, many of those proved to be short lived. Darden Restaurants, the parent company behind Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, cut its CEO’s $1 million base salary to zero in early April, for instance; but on June 1, the company restored that salary while also ending other executives’ 50% pay cuts.

Concerns about CEO compensation are higher than ever this year after so many companies maintained the bottom line – and their stock prices – in part by laying off workers.

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