When it comes to getting the most profits from your chief executive, it helps to be a very large company operating in the energy sector.
Among the 100 highest-paid executives of L.A.-based companies, an even dozen earned 10 percent or more of their company's net income. But the pay scale (as a percentage of net income) is considerably less grand for executives of L.A.-based energy companies.
Unocal Corp. Chief Executive Roger C. Beach earned 0.46 percent of the company's net income, or $3.1 million. And the $8 million compensation package awarded to Atlantic Richfield Co. Chairman and CEO Mike R. Bowlin amounts to 0.42 percent of net income.
But top prize in the most-bang-for-the-buck category goes to John Bryson, chairman of Edison International. The utility chief's total compensation came in at $2.65 million, or just 0.37 percent of Edison's net income of $724 million for the year ended Dec. 31.
Josh Lurie, president of consulting firm Joint Information Inc., which compiled the compensation list for the Business Journal, says that utility regulation contributes to relatively low compensation for executives like Byson and Willis Wood, chief executive of Pacific Enterprises, whose $2 million pay package puts him fifth on the list at 1.1 percent of net income.
"This is a highly regulated industry, so compensation is more closely looked at. Not only by shareholders, but by the government and various committees," Lurie said.
Michael Eisner, chairman of Walt Disney Co., ranked fourth on the list of best bargains among local executives, despite his long-standing reputation as one of L.A.'s highest-paid executives.
In 1996 Eisner incurred the wrath of many investors by earning $204 million, most of that in stock options, or almost 17 percent of Disney's net income of $1.2 billion that year.
This year, Eisner's compensation was considerably less $10.7 million, largely because he received no new options in 1997. Eisner's total earnings represent just 0.54 percent of his firm's net income of $1.9 billion.
At that price, analysts and compensation experts say that Eisner is a great deal.
"Disney is only limited by the degree of creativity of its executives," said Bruce Raabe, an analyst at Collins & Co. "The vision of Eisner allows the company to produce something that nobody else has."
Raabe says it also explains why the compensation of executives in other industries, like energy, is proportionally smaller. While Eisner is perceived as vital to the health of Disney, chief executives of oil companies might be viewed as more expendable, he said.
"Oil and gas profitability are closely tied to commodity prices," he said. "The CEO can maintain efficiencies, but when it comes to selling gas they really don't have much control over costs. So it is difficult for an executive to differentiate himself from the competition."
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