Staff Reporter

Michael Eisner has become a poster boy for massive executive payouts. But based on a survey of salary, bonuses and granted stock options in 1998, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and chief executive actually comes relatively cheap.

Eisner's pay package was valued at $5.76 million in 1998 only 0.3 percent of Disney's net profits last year.

"His pay is a very small percentage of Disney's overall business," said Bruce Raabe, an analyst at Collins & Co. in San Francisco. "Disney is a company based on creativity. So you need a special kind of leadership. Eisner seems to have it. Overall, I would say he has been a bargain."

Eisner received a base salary of $764,423 last year, which is moderate by CEO standards. On top of that he received a $5 million bonus.

He did not, however, receive any new options, which has been the source of his great wealth, estimated by the Business Journal at $800 million, making him among the highest-paid corporate executives in U.S. history.

Disney wasn't the only local company whose chief executive's salary last year seemed proportionately low when compared to company income.

John E. Bryson, chief executive of Edison International, made $2.9 million last year. But that was only 0.4 percent of the energy company's net income. Bryson has been a bargain for years; last year he ranked as the most cost-efficient chief executive at an L.A. public company, with pay accounting for 0.37 percent of net income.

Analysts say the lower pay at Edison is party due to the fact that it has been in a regulated industry, so the government, as well as shareholders, are keeping an eye on costs. (This could start changing as much of the utility business is deregulated.)

Other CEOs who earned their pay last year include Amgen Inc. Chairman Gordon Binder, whose $6 million in pay was only 0.7 percent of net income; and Countrywide Credit Industries Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo, whose $5 million payout was 1.3 percent of net income.

In 1997, it was oil companies that had the cheapest executives. But with lower crude prices cutting into profits last year, executives at Atlantic Richfield Co. and Unocal Corp. are not looking like such a bargain.

Arco Chairman Mike Bowlin ranked as the second cheapest corporate chief for 1997, even though he earned more than $8 million. But while his overall pay fell to $6.4 million last year, he now ranks as the least cost-efficient executive on the list. That's because his company lost $657 million amid weak oil prices worldwide.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.