The Decade’s 10 Best-Paid CEOs List

The Decade’s 10 Best-Paid CEOs - Discussing salary CEOs and how much they get paid does draw debate on whether or not they’ve been the best person for the job during the past decade. For example, Steve Jobs took nothing, but outperformed every top executive in 10 years. Let’s review the list of company top wigs and explain what they have accomplished.

Lawrence Ellison of Oracle. Total realized compensation (1999-2009) $1.84 billion. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, Ellison, the 65-year-old founder and CEO of the software giant, was the single best-paid public company executive during the last decade.

Barry Diller, IAC/InterActive, Total realized compensation (2000-2009) $1.14 billion. Diller, who remains chairman of Expedia, the online travel site spun off from IAC in 2005, told the Journal: “I did exactly as well as shareholders during the exact same counting period.”

Ray Irani, Occidental Petroleum. Total realized compensation (2000-2009) $857 million. Shareholders of Occidental have recently complained that Irani is paid three times as much as other oil executives, and that the board has set the pay too high while setting performance targets too low.

Steve Jobs, Apple. Total realized compensation (1999-2009) $749 million. Despite his longstanding tradition of taking $1 base salary, the man with the penchant for mock turtlenecks has done well enough to wear what he wants, mainly by way of restricted stock which was granted in 2003 and vested in 2006. Prior to his death in 2011, he had already outperformed everyone on this list.

Richard Fairbank, Capital One Financial. Total realized compensation (2000-2009) $569 million. Though his total compensation was down 35 percent in 2009 (to a mere $11 million) Fairbank stands out as the highest paid financial services CEO of the prior decade, which is saying a lot considering what was earned on Wall Street during that period.

Eugene Isenberg, Nabors Industries. Total realized compensation (2000-2009) $518 million. Two years ago Isenberg raised eyebrows when he earned $79 million even as the oil and gas company he led saw its share value drop 51 percent. Lucky for him, at that time Isenberg had his bonus pegged to the company’s cash flow — not share performance.

Terry Semel, Yahoo. Total realized compensation (2000-2007) $490 million. Shareholder complaints over Semel’s compensation followed him up until his resignation from the company in 2007. His stock options followed him out the door — options that he has exercised over the past few years.

Henry Silverman, Cendant. Total realized compensation (2000-2006) $481 million. The longtime head of Cendant, a travel and real estate services giant, once so infuriated investors with his outsized option grants that in the early part of the decade the company ended up settling a shareholder lawsuit specifically protesting the size of his pay package. A $100 investment in Cendant shares in 2000 would have been worth $51 in 2006.

William McGuire, UnitedHealth Group. Total realized compensation (2000-2006) $469 million. McGuire might have earned a higher spot on this list had it not been for the fact in 2007 he settled a case with regulators over stock option backdating, forfeiting $418 million in options and retirement benefits.

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