Amazon CEO Andy Jassy earned 6,474 times the median Amazon employee’s salary
Several Fortune 500 CEOs made over 1,000 times what their company’s median employee earned in 2021, but Andy Jassy takes the cake.
Jassy received nearly $213 million in compensation in 2021—6,474 times his median worker’s salary of $32,855, according to Amazon’s proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April. By comparison, the median CEO compensation at Fortune 500 companies was 205 times a typical worker’s annual salary in 2021.
Amazon made clear in the filing that Jassy’s high pay was because of a special restricted stock award tied to his promotion to CEO that year.
No other Fortune 500 company comes close to Amazon’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio. But seven companies gave their CEOs pay packages last year worth more than 2,000 times the median worker’s salary: Warner Bros. Discovery, Expedia, [hotlink]Gap Inc.[/hotlink], ManpowerGroup, McDonald’s, TJX Companies, and Yum Brands. And in total, 25 Fortune 500 companies gave their CEOs over 1,000 times what their typical employees made in 2021.
Jassy also stands out from his peers in that group by having served the shortest amount of time in the top job. He replaced Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s president and CEO in July 2021 after previously having run the company’s cloud computing division for 15 years. Expedia’s Peter Kern, Gap Inc’s Sonia Syngal, and Yum Brands’ David Gibbs stepped into their roles in 2020.
Second to Jassy’s pay ratio is Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO, David Zaslav. His $246,573,481 compensation package placed his pay 2,972 times greater than median employee wages of $82,964. A recent Fortune report ranked Zaslav as the second most overpaid CEO in the Fortune 500: Under Zaslav, company shares have underperformed the S&P 500 with an annualized return of 5.8% compared to 9.4% for the broader market.
Although their compensation was astronomical, neither Jassy nor Zaslav made the most of the eight Fortune 500 companies with the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratios. At Expedia, Kern was given roughly $297 million for the year, but because the typical Expedia worker makes $102,270, he earned 2,897 times more than the median worker salary, which is smaller than his peers.
Syngal—the only woman CEO on the list—had the lowest pay package in 2021, just over $18 million. Gap Inc. also paid its typical employee, a part-time sales associate working in Canada, the least, at $7,348 annually. That combination placed the retailer fourth in terms of pay ratio, with Syngal making 2,485 times more than the sales associate.
Since 1977, CEO pay has soared 1,322%, while typical worker compensation has risen only 18%, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Much of that compensation is because vested stock awards and stock options have become a larger component of executive pay.
Only $175,000 of Jassy’s total pay came from his salary. The rest came almost entirely from a stock award, worth about $212 million in 2021, that Jassy received when he was promoted to CEO. The award vests over 10 years, meaning at the end of that time, he will own all of it.
But Jassy’s compensation package was not without controversy. Two shareholder advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, advised shareholders to vote against it, ahead of the company’s annual meeting on May 25.
“The value of the new CEO’s $214 million award is excessive in the context of an internal promotion,” ISS wrote in a May report shared with clients, the Financial Times reported. “The compensation program lacks any connection to objective, pre-set performance criteria.”
In its own report the same month, Glass Lewis flagged Jassy’s pay as “excessive” and said shareholders ought to be concerned about further hikes.
“The annualized value of Mr. Jassy’s award considering the vesting period is $21.4 million, reasonable but for the fact that the company only stated that the award is ‘intended to represent most of Mr. Jassy’s compensation for the coming years,’” Glass Lewis said in its report. “The vagueness of the statement and lack of commitment, in our opinion, provide little assurance to shareholders concerned with excessive pay.”
In a comment to Fortune, an Amazon spokesperson says Jassy’s 2021 pay package and what it “equates to from an annual compensation perspective is competitive with that of CEOs at other large companies.”
Gap Inc. told Fortune that the majority of their store employees were part time, and under the age of 23. They added that the company does not annualize their compensation when determining the CEO pay ratio, they pay their associates competitively, and retail work provides a ladder of opportunity.
“For these reasons, we do not believe that the CEO pay ratio is a meaningful comparison as it does a poor job measuring employment and compensation in the retail sector because of the number of part-time and seasonal employees who work throughout the industry as well as the millions of indirect jobs that depend on the retail industry.”
Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment. Expedia declined to comment.
[This report has been updated to include the response of Amazon and Gap Inc. to queries about compensation packages.]
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