U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 32 mins

Highest-Paid Online Travel CEOs of 2018

Dennis Schaal
Highest-Paid Online Travel CEOs of 2018

The CEOs of Booking Holdings, Expedia Group, and TripAdvisor all took pay cuts in 2018. But shed no tears: Their compensation dives last year were mostly because each had a spectacular 2017.

Still, Glenn Fogel, the CEO of Booking Holdings, was the most highly compensated public company online travel leader in 2018 with total compensation of $20.45 million.

In this era of massive CEO compensation packages — in the United States, at least — it may be crass to characterize it as such, but Fogel’s payday was relatively modest compared with the 2017 pay mark of TripAdvisor co-founder and CEO Steve Kaufer, whose total compensation that year was nearly $47.9 million.

Kaufer’s 2017 payola, though, was sort of a lifetime achievement award in that he received stock awards that year of nearly $28.6 million and option awards of $18.2 million. Kaufer, who isn’t eligible for another long-term incentive equity grant until 2022, received total compensation in 2018 of just $1.97 million, the lowest of the four executives we considered. (See table below.)

CEO Pay Fell for 3 Bosses

With the exception of then-Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans, whose compensation package rose 6 percent to $14.47 million in 2018, edging out Expedia Holdings CEO Mark Okerstrom for second highest among the four executives, all of the executives’ pay packages fell in 2018 versus 2017. That’s because Booking’s Fogel, Expedia’s Okerstrom, and TripAdvisor’s Kaufer each had a milestone year of sorts in 2017, and 2018 looked a tad shabby in comparison.

Shabby, though, is in the eyes of the beholder. Fogel’s $20.45 million compensation in 2018 was 402 times higher than the average employee pay at the company, Okerstrom’s $13.08 million bested the average Expedia worker 194 to 1, and Kaufer’s relatively modest $1.97 million bundle was still 19 times higher than the average TripAdvisor worker bee.

Online Travel CEO Pay 2018

CEO Company 2017 Pay 2018 Pay % Change Median Worker Ratio
Glenn Fogel Booking Holdings $27.77M $20.45M (-26.3%) 402 to 1
Gillian Tans Booking.com $13.65M $14.47M 6% N/A
Mark Okerstrom Expedia 30.72M $13.08M (-57.4%) 194 to 1
Steve Kaufer TripAdvisor $47.93M $1.97M (-95.8%) 19 to 1

Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings

Glenn Fogel’s Performance

In determining the CEO performance of Fogel of Booking Holdings, the company’s compensation committee, as revealed in a financial filing, said it took into account room night growth of 12.9 percent, 16.8 percent revenue growth, adjusted earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization growth of 18 percent, and “our industry-leading operating margin” of 36.8 percent.

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel is speaking at Skift Global Forum in NYC September 18–19. Get tickets now

“From the Compensation Committee’s perspective, the company and Mr. Fogel performed well in 2018, in particular when considering the competitive and macro-economic environment in which we operate,” the company stated.

Fogel’s $20.45 million total compensation package in 2018 represented a 26.3 percent reduction from 2017 because his stock awards declined by about $7 million. He had received a promotional grant in 2017 because of his elevation from head of strategy and planning to the CEO position.

Booking Holdings Operational Issues in 2018

Still, Fogel ($5.7 million), Tans ($4.84 million), and other top executives at Booking Holdings saw their bonuses decline last year compared with 2017 because of some nagging operational issues.

The company stated that these issues included “certain non-income-based tax issues at one of our smaller brands, certain systems issues that arose during the year, and delays in the integration of our Rentalcars.com brand into our Booking.com brand.”

Such integration of Rentalcars.com into Booking.com has been a hallmark of Fogel’s tenure as CEO since he took up the post in 2017. Traditionally, the Group’s various brands operated more independently. But, as with Rentalcars and Booking.com tied together, to some degree, Kayak now sees OpenTable within its purview. Agoda, too, may be working more closely with Booking.com and Priceline than it has in past years.

Compensation for Fogel could be setting up somewhat differently in 2019 because on June 26 he took on the additional role as CEO of Booking.com, the parent company’s largest unit, and Tans resigned, effective immediately. She will serve in the newly created position of chairwoman of Booking.com for a year.

Fogel now serves in the same dual role of CEO of both Booking Holdings and Booking.com that a predecessor, Darren Huston, had for a couple of years until his ouster in a scandal in April 2016.

Gillian Tans Got a Raise

Gillian Tans, who served as both president and CEO of Booking.com from April 2016 to June 2019, saw her total compensation rise 6 percent to $14.47 million, second only to Fogel’s among the four executives we considered in 2018.

Although Tans saw her stock awards in 2018 rise by around $1 million to nearly $9 million, her cash bonus fell 3.76 percent to $4.84 million. Unlike other executives, the company linked Tans’ cash bonus to the performance of Booking.com rather than parent Booking Holdings.

“The performance metric for Ms. Tans’ bonus was Booking.com’s Compensation EBITDA as further adjusted primarily to take into account inter-company transactions,” the company stated. “The Compensation Committee determined that having Ms. Tans’ cash bonus tied to the performance of the Booking.com business was appropriate to provide incentives based directly on the business for which she was responsible.”

The company characterized Booking.com’s financial performance in 2018 as “outstanding.”

Sorry Mark Okerstrom, It Wasn’t 2017 Again

Expedia Group President and CEO Mark Okerstrom saw his total compensation fall 57.4 percent in 2018 to $13.08 million. The compensation reduction was largely because he benefited from substantial awards the prior year when he was appointed CEO that August. So while Okerstrom received nearly $3.5 million in stock awards the year he was appointed president and CEO, he earned none in 2018.

Likewise, Okerstrom’s option awards plummeted 64 percent to $9.08 million in 2018 compared to the milestone he achieved in 2017.

The Expedia Group CEO saw his cash bonus jump 140 percent to $3 million in 2018. In determining the cash bonuses for Okerstrom and most of the other top executives at Expedia Group, the company considered its financial performance — 12 percent, 15 percent, and 35 percent increases in revenue, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), and adjusted earnings per share respectively — as well as factors such identifying key geographies for expansion, and increasing the number of properties on company sites to more than 1 million.

Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom is speaking at Skift Global Forum in NYC September 18-19. Get tickets now

The company said that Okerstrom and chairman Barry Diller do not have target cash bonuses because their base salaries — $1 million and Okerstrom and $465,000 for Diller — tend to be lower than their peers. As senior executive of the company, Diller’s total compensation at Expedia Group for 2018 $3.61 million, a 59 percent reduction.

Steve Kaufer’s Compensation Fell Off a Cliff

As discussed above, TripAdvisor President and CEO Steve Kaufer’s total compensation plummeted in 2018 to $1.97 million, down from nearly $48 million a year earlier. That’s because Kaufer received no stock or option awards in 2018, but piled up $28.57 million and nearly $18.3 million, respectively in 2017.

“Mr. Kaufer has not historically received annual equity grants and, instead, received a significant equity grant for long-term incentive compensation in November 2017,” the company stated, alluding to the grants Kaufer received in 2017, and the fact that he received no equity grant last year. The next time that Kaufer will be eligible for a stock award for “long-term equity incentive compensation” will be 2022, TripAdvisor said.

Still, Kaufer’s bonus rose 232 percent to $1.16 million in 2018.

TripAdvisor cited accomplishments in 2018, including the fact that it launched “a refreshed brand and hotel shopping experience,” a new brand advertising campaign, and “also reinvigorating hotel segment profitability while growing experiences and restaurants, two key strategic business units.”

The company’s revenue grew 4 percent — far slower than the pace at Expedia Group (12 percent) and Booking Holdings (16.8 percent) — but TripAdvisor’s adjusted EBITDA growth of 27 percent in 2018 was faster than that of Booking Holdings (18 percent) and Expedia Group (15 percent).

Foreign companies, such as India’s MakeMyTrip, China’s Ctrip, and Argentina’s Despegar, that trade in United States, are not required to break down individual executives’ compensation, but report their executive teams’ compensation in the aggregate.

Subscribe to Skift newsletters covering the business of travel, restaurants, and wellness.