Billionaire CEOs With The Biggest Paychecks

Jacquelyn Smith
April 9, 2013

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The highest-earning billionaire CEO in the Unites States received a salary of just $1 in 2012.

In fact, that’s what Richard Kinder has paid himself each year since he cofounded energy firm Kinder Morgan in 1997 with friend William Morgan. The 68-year-old exec has also never received a bonus, stock options or restricted stock grants. Yet, Kinder, a former Army captain worth $9.8 billion as of March 2013, raked in $1.1 billion in 2012.

The $1.1 billion Kinder realized depicts stock gains from shares he received associated with Kinder Morgan’s going private transaction that was announced in 2006. He received these shares directly from investors in the transaction, without any cost to public shareholders, unit holders, or the company.

While Kinder’s big payday is unusual for him, it is fairly common that billionaire CEOs take home just $1 in annual pay. Others include Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman, Google’s Larry Page, and Oracle‘s Larry Ellison, the sixth highest paid U.S.-based billionaire CEO in 2012. Like the bulk of chieftains on our list, they earned most of their pay from exercised stock options or vested stock awards.

In Pictures: Billionaire CEOs With The Biggest Paychecks

Last month FORBES released its 27th annual Billionaires list, boasting 1,426 names with a record aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion. Of those, 442 hail from the U.S., more than any other country by a wide margin. Nearly 10% of these are CEO’s of publicly traded companies in the U.S. While these folks clearly don’t need paychecks, and often take home a salary of just $1, some are well compensated nevertheless.

To learn which of those U.S.-based billionaire CEOs bring home the biggest paychecks, we scoured the list and dug through dozens of SEC filings.

Daniel Och, the 52-year-old chief executive of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, is No. 2 on our billionaire payday list. His base salary? Zilch. Bonus? Nil. Och’s pay of $288.6 million last year was comprised of vested shares and other compensation.

Rounding out the top three is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

The 59-year-old Brooklyn native worth $1.7 billion bought Starbucks in 1987 for $3.8 million and took it public five years later. In 2012 Schultz took home $4 million in base pay and bonus, but also realized $113.5 million from exercised stock options and vested stock awards.

Schultz wasn’t the only billionaire executive to award himself a sizable bonus.

No. 5 Ralph Lauren banked a $19.5 million bonus last year, in addition to $1.3 million in base pay and $264,023 in other compensation. The 73-year-old fashion tycoon also realized $17.8 million from exercised stock options and vested stock awards.

To calculate each chief executive’s total compensation for the fiscal year, Forbes counted salary and cash bonuses; other compensation, such as vested stock grants; and stock gains, the value realized by exercised stock options. We count compensation when it turns into cash or marketable stock; we do not include the value of options until the executive exercises them.

We collected the latest available compensation figures reported in companies proxies filed by April 5, 2013.

In Pictures: Billionaire CEOs With The Biggest Paychecks