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The highest paid CEOs in the ASX 200

ASX 200 CEO standing in high rise office looking out window
Image source: Getty Images

The size of pay cheques for ASX 200 chief executive officers is often a contentious debate.

Does anyone deserve millions of dollars per year when the Australian Prime Minister doesn’t even take home seven figures?

Or is it fair enough that people with business acumen and cerebral aptitude rake in as much money each year as celebrities and sporting heroes?

Regardless of your opinion, it can’t be denied that the leaders of our biggest public companies have a huge influence on the wealth of millions of Australians.

The Motley Fool readers likely own some shares directly, but even those who don’t, have some skin in the game through their superannuation accounts.

With one big mistake or one genius move, ASX 200 CEOs can make or break our portfolios, let alone the employment of thousands of Australians.

CEO pay inflation is slowing

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) this month released its analysis regarding the remuneration of the S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) CEOs.

ACSI Chief Executive, Louise Davidson, said that scrutiny from her organisation and other investors had slowed the inflation of executive pay packets. She commented, “More boards are using sensible discretion to rein in outcomes for senior executives – demonstrated by the fact that 25 CEOs had their bonuses zeroed out where performance was not adequate, compared with only seven a year earlier.”

The upheaval this year created by the COVID-19 pandemic will challenge management teams right across the ASX 200.

“…people at every level of society have been wrestling with unprecedented changes to their work – for those who have kept their jobs – financial pain, isolation and family dislocations,” said Davidson.

She went on to say, “Against this backdrop, boards of ASX 200 companies will need to be mindful this year of how remuneration outcomes will be perceived externally, given the widespread impact of the pandemic on investors, staff, customers, governments and other key stakeholders.”

The 20 highest paid ASX 200 CEOs

ACSI compiled a league table of the highest paid ASX 200 CEOs by using a ‘realised pay’ metric. That’s the value of cash and equities actually received, rather than the accounting numbers shown in annual reports.

  • IDP Education Ltd (ASX: IEL) chief, Andrew Barkla, set a new record for the highest pay in the history of the report, taking home $37.76 million.
  • CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) boss, Paul Perreault, pocketed $30.5 million to rank second, with a significant gap to the third highest pay packet.
  • Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) chief, Alan Joyce, who has featured prominently in the public consciousness during the Covid-19 pandemic, came in 8th with a pay packet of $12.2 million.
  • Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX: MQG) chief, Shemara Wikramanayake, was not eligible for the table as she took over the position from Nicholas Moore in the middle of the company’s 2019 financial year.

On that note, let’s take a look at the top 20 chief executive ‘realised’ pay packets for their company’s 2019 financial year:

Rank Chief executive Company Realised pay
1 Andrew Barkla IDP Education Ltd (ASX: IEL) $37,761,322
2 Paul Perreault CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) $30,526,634
3 Philippe Wolgen Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX: CUV) $20,624,450
4 Michael Clarke Treasury Wine Estates Ltd (ASX: TWE) $19,853,177
5 John Guscic Webjet Limited (ASX: WEB) $16,498,937
6 Greg Goodman Goodman Group (ASX: GMG) $14,967,391
7 Robert Kelly Steadfast Group Ltd (ASX: SDF) $14,419,677
8 Alan Joyce Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) $12,217,400
9 Colin Goldschmidt Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX: SHL) $11,912,450
10 JS Jacques Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) $10,323,975
11 Peter Coleman Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) $9,665,221
12 Mark Vassella BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX: BSL) $9.465,692
13 Mark McInnes Premier Investments Limited (ASX: PMV) $9,155,382
14 Bill Beament Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX: NST) $8,858,086
15 Julian Pemberton NRW Holdings Limited (ASX: NWH) $8,815,450
16 Nigel Garrard Orora Ltd (ASX: ORA) $8,595,076
17 Maurice James Qube Holdings Ltd (ASX: QUB) $7,735,816
18 Paul Flynn Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX: WHC) $7,619,735
19 Scott Charlton Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) $7,609,185
20 Peter Allen Scentre Group (ASX: SCG) $7,452,446

Data Source: Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, Table created by Author

Foolish takeaway

As a shareholder, how you interpret these salaries is up to you.

Do you think these particular chief executives have provided value in return for the level of remuneration received?

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Tony Yoo owns shares of CSL Ltd. and Macquarie Group Limited. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of CSL Ltd. and Idp Education Pty Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Macquarie Group Limited, Premier Investments Limited, Treasury Wine Estates Limited, and Webjet Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Transurban Group. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Scentre Group, Sonic Healthcare Limited, and Steadfast Group Ltd. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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