Snap Inc.’s initial public offering in March 2017 – and the big stock awards for the Venice-based social media company’s top executives last year – made the biggest impact on the Business Journal’s two lists that rank the highest-paid executives at Los Angeles County-based public companies.

The lists are based on compensation data for 2017 collected from proxy statements and annual report filings.

Snap’s Evan Spiegel topped this year’s list of highest-paid chief executives, ranked by total company compensation in 2017, with $638 million in compensation. Nearly all of that amount came from stock awards – his annual salary is $98,000.

The social media app developer went public last year, and has more recently seen its stock price fluctuate, as its pace of user expansion has disappointed investors. A heavily criticized product redesign, and a former Snap engineer’s allegations of a “toxic” and “sexist” culture at the company, haven’t helped.

The No. 2 executive – Antony Ressler, who was chief executive of Century City-based financial firm Ares Management since co-founding the firm in 1997 and stepped down in December, earned nearly $109 million in total compensation in 2017. He became chairman Jan. 1.

The company’s new chief executive, Michael Arougheti, earned $22 million last year to land at No. 8 on the chief executive list. Ares Management shares rose 4.2 percent in 2017. Additionally, executives Bennett Rosenthal, who also co-founded the firm, and David Kaplan, tied each other at No. 3 on the non-chief executive list with $54.2 million each.

Snap effect

The 50 CEOs on this week’s list combined for a 141 percent hike in total compensation, reaching $1.4 billion compared with $565 million in 2016.

The increase would be 28 percent without Spiegel on the list.

That compares with a 5 percent increase nationally, according to Redwood City-based Equilar Inc., which determined the 100 highest-paid chief executives in the U.S. averaged $15.7 million in compensation last year.

This week’s list on non-chief executive compensation showed a cumulative 41 percent year-over-year increase to $641 million.

The technology sector has a large presence in the top 10 spots of the Business Journal’s list of highest-paid executives who are not chief executives.

The total would have been $469 million, for an increase of 3 percent, without Snap, which has several entries on the non-CEO list. (Snap co-founder Bobby Murphy, who current serves as chief technology officer of the company, is not considered an “executive officer” according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and therefore not on the non-CEO list).

Several Snap executives made the non-chief executive list, including chief strategy officer Imran Khan, former general counsel Chris Handman and current general counsel Michael O’Sullivan, each landing in the top 10.

Handman resigned from Snap in July 2017, citing his desire to spend more time with his family.

Meanwhile, Robert Iger of Walt Disney Co., last year’s top earner among local chief executives, at $36.3 million fell three spots to No. 4 on the list, with a 17 percent decline in earnings from the prior year.

Iger got some heat from a majority of shareholders in March when they weighed in – with a symbolic, non-binding vote – against a compensation plan that could result in him earning up to $48.5 million annually, plus an equity grant worth $100 million.

John Feltheimer of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. earned $35.3 million, enough to jump seven spots to No. 5 on the chief executive’s list. The Santa Monica-based entertainment company’s shares rose 26 percent in 2017.

Just missing the top five is Margaret Georgiadis, the former chief executive of El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., who departed the toy manufacturer in April to take the top job at Ancestry.com, a Lehi, Utah-based consumer genomics company.

Another of the rare women on the list – Julia Stewart – resigned last year after a 15-year term as chief executive and chairwoman of Glendale-based Dine Brands Global Inc., formerly known as DineEquity Inc. (see related story, page 1). Worsening struggles at subsidiary Applebee’s were cited as reasons for her departure. Stewart’s successor, Stephen Joyce, was No. 36 on the list with $7 million in compensation, compared with Stewart’s roughly $6 million.

Newcomers

Other newcomers to the chief executive list included David Hirz of Commerce-based Smart & Final, who came in at No. 24 with $9.1 million, and Chip Perry of Santa Monica’s TrueCar Inc., who was No. 49 with $5.1 million.

Some long-standing chief executives who switched over to the non-chief executive list are Stanford Kurland of PennyMac Financial Services Inc. of Westlake Village, who adopted the role of executive chairman, and Steven Udvar-Hazy of Century City-based Air Lease Corp., now the company’s executive chairman.

Executive compensation has become a hot-button political topic, although some observers maintain that the proper measurement is how much value each executive adds to the company in relation to the total of a compensation package.

“It’s not what you pay the chief executive,” said Ira Kalb, an assistant professor of clinical marketing at USC Marshall School of Business. “It’s what you get in return. A really good executive can really turn things around in a business.”

Stocks key

A bull market can help share prices, too. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 19.4 percent in 2017.

“Chief executives’ pay is really a function of their equity positions,” said Robert Coscarello, an instructor at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. “Those equity positions keep getting higher and higher.”

Coscarello recently studied compensation of S&P 500 executives for correlations between chief executive pay and of underlying performance measures.

“We found little or no relationship (to the measures),” he said. “Rather, pay was based on the increase in stock price.”

Equity positions can lead to interesting results. The late Steve Jobs famously took a $1 annual salary at Apple Inc., but he owned 5.5 million of the Cupertino-based tech giant’s shares. Apple stock was around $3 a share when Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and climbed to $365 a share at the time of his death in 2011.

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