Median chief executive pay rose to $9.7M in 2012

Christina Rexrode / The Associated Press /


Published May 23, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

CEO pay has been going in one direction for the past three years: up.

The head of a typical large public company made $9.7 million in 2012, a 6.5 percent increase from a year earlier that was aided by a rising stock market, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data from Equilar, an executive pay research firm.

CEO pay, which fell two years straight during the Great Recession but rose 24 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2011, has never been higher.

Companies say they need to pay CEOs well so they can attract the best talent, and that this is ultimately in the interest of shareholders. But shareholder activists and some corporate governance experts say many CEOs are being paid far above what is reasonable or what their performance merits.

Pay for all U.S. workers rose 1.1 percent in 2010, 1.2 percent in 2011 and 1.6 percent last year — not enough to keep up with inflation. The median wage in the U.S. was about $39,900 in 2012, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The highest paid CEO was Leslie Moonves of CBS, who made $60.3 million. He beat the second-place finisher handily: David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, who made $49.9 million. Five of the 10 highest-paid CEOs were from the entertainment and media industry.

For the fourth year in five, health care CEOs received the highest median pay at $11.1 million, while utility CEOs had the lowest at $7.5 million. The median value is the midpoint; half the CEOs in that group made more and half less.