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By Rob Wile
May 23, 2017
Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger was one of the highest-paid executives in 2016.
Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger was one of the highest-paid executives in 2016.
Taylor Hill—FilmMagic

The Associated Press reports that American CEOs got an 8.5-percent raise last year, taking in a median of $11.5 million in salary, stock, and other compensation. It’s the biggest CEO pay increase in three years.

The raises are a reflection of the bull market in stocks.

“Boards of directors increasingly require that CEOs push their stock price higher to collect their maximum possible payout, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index returned 12 percent last year,” the AP reported.

Over the last five years, median CEO pay in the survey has jumped 19.6 percent, not accounting for inflation, according to data compiled with executive compensation group Equilar. That’s nearly double the 10.9-percent rise the average full-time employee has seen over the same period.

CEOs typically got more than half their total compensation from stock and option grants last year, the AP reported.

Equilar previously announced that the highest-paid CEO of 2016 was Charter Communications’ boss Thomas Rutledge.

The top-5 highest-paid CEOs in the new survey are all in digital communications or entertainment:

  1. Thomas Rutledge, Charter Communications: $98 million
  2. Leslie Moonves, CBS: $68.6 million
  3. Robert Iger, Disney: $41 million
  4. David Zaslav, Discovery: $37.2 million
  5. Robert Kotick, Activision Blizzard: $33.1 million

If you’re wondering why these executives make more than the tech CEOs who usually find themselves in the headlines, it’s because many of them have joined the “$1 salary club” because their net worths are astronomical. This group includes Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. The salary of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who is among the top three richest men on earth, is officially less than $82,000 per year.

The new Equilar survey covered the 346 CEOs who have served in that role at an S&P 500 company for at least two years as of fiscal year end 2016. The 21 female CEOs in the survey earned a median of $13.1 million, down from $18 million last year.

The male CEOs earned $11.4 million, up from $10.5 million last year.

California had the most CEOs in the survey, with 40, while New York CEOs saw the highest median pay, at $15.3 million.

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The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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