Thanks to a hefty new stock options package, Discovery Inc. CEO David Zaslav saw his executive compensation package increased more than sixfold to $246 million from $37.7 million in 2020, according to a company regulatory filing on Monday.
In May, Zaslav was announced as head of Warner Bros Discovery, the company created by merging Discovery Inc. and WarnerMedia, and signed a new employment agreement through the end of 2027. His rich new contract was packed with $190 million in stock options on top of $3 million in base pay. The merger of the two companies is expected to be completed in early Q2, most likely in April, the company has said. Zaslav’s finance chief Gunnar Wiedenfels will serve as chief financial officer of the new entity.
Zaslav has earned an average of $62.6 million over the past 10 years, according to publicly available SEC filings. In six of those years, he outpaced now-former Disney CEO Bob Iger, AMC Networks chief Josh Sapan and ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and his predecessor Philippe Dauman.
According to the filing, the executive received $45.8 million in 2019, somewhat more than in the pandemic-troubled 2020.
In MayZaslav left his position on Lionsgate Entertainment’s board of directors two days after it was announced that he would take over the new company formed from the $43 Billion merger with WarnerMedia in March of 2021.
“Mr. Zaslav’s resignation is not the result of any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to its operations, policies or practices,” Lionsgate said in an SEC filing announcing the move.
Lawyer and Discovery board member Daniel Sanchez stepped down from his position on the Lionsgate board at that time, the company said in a separate filing.
Huge compensation for entertainment and media executives reflects a general trend in executive compensation in all areas of industry that began decades prior to the pandemic, experts say. Between 1978 and 2019 CEO compensation has risen 1,007.5% for CEOs compared with 11.9% for average workers. That means in 2019, CEOs of top companies were making 278 times the compensation of the average worker.