Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

CEO pay at Tampa Bay public corporations? Big to us but tiny compared to top U.S. execs

Among the CEOs of Tampa Bay's larger publicly traded corporations, Mark Mondello of Jabil enjoyed the biggest paycheck of the past year, in addition to the greatest annual raise in compensation. In contrast, founder and CEO Paresh Patel of the property insurer HCI Group saw his compensation drop sharply from the year before, according to currently available data.

In a Tampa Bay Times check of prominent public companies based here, Mondello ranked tops in both total compensation — $10.5 million — but also in the increase — 62 percent — in his pay package from the prior year. Other big compensation gains were posted by CEO Bruce Lucas of Heritage Insurance, up 49 percent to $7 million, as well as CEO Bill McGill of recovering boat retailer Marinemax, whose compensation climbed 30 percent to $2 million.

Conversely, Patel's compensation fell to $4 million from $15 million in the prior year, a 73 percent decline. Why such a difference? Patel received $10.6 million in restricted stock in the earlier year, boosting his overall pay to $15 million.

Average out the compensation of more than a dozen CEOs over the past two years of available pay data and these executives received about $4 million in 2015. That's pretty much unchanged from the year before, a sign that the long-term rise in executive compensation seems to have taken a break, at least for the moment.

To be clear, there are some apples and oranges in these numbers. Some Tampa Bay public companies have not yet disclosed how much their top executives were compensated in 2015, so in those cases we are relying on pay data from the year before. So it's possible, though unlikely, some CEO's pay could exceed Mondello's last year. The few companies yet to report 2015 numbers should be doing so in the coming months.

So consider this a peek at the CEO pay landscape, not a definitive review of all 2015 paychecks. Keep in mind these are CEOs of companies whose stocks trade on major exchanges like the NYSE or Nasdaq.

The pay of CEOs running privately held companies is not public record, and thus tougher to measure. (One standout among these firms is Stephen Gray, CEO since mid 2014 of Tampa telecommunications firm Syniverse. His impressive compensation in 2015: $18.2 million.)

So what's the bottom line? A few insights:

• None of these 18 CEOs make the huge bucks we are still seeing paid the top executives of America's largest corporations. Even Mondello's pay, tops locally, smacks of pocket change on the national stage.

• Google CEO Sundar Pichai, for example, was awarded an executive compensation package of $100.5 million in 2015. That's nearly 10 times the package enjoyed by Jabil's CEO.

At JPMorgan Chase, CEO Jamie Dimon's $27 million pay package for 2015 was the highest among large U.S. bank CEOs. Plenty of CEOs this past year landed compensation packages worth $40 million or more.

Not all big shots are raking in mega-sums. Curiously, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple received only $10.3 million. That's a shade less than Mondello at Jabil, a St. Petersburg electronics manufacturer that happens to count Apple as it biggest customer. Then there is Florida's very own Publix Super Markets, perhaps the state's most formidable competitor in the grocery business and frequently recognized among the national "best places" to work. While generating the largest revenues and profits among any Central Florida company, the pay for Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw was among the lowest: $1.25 million in 2015 . His recent successor at CEO, Todd Jones, made $1.24 million. The company does not offer stock options, long-term incentives or severance packages to executives.

• CEO pay used to be a big lightning rod, given how much more many top executives earn than the people they employ. The CEOs of America's largest firms earn three times more than they did 20 years ago and at least 10 times more than 30 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Those are big gains even relative to other very high wage earners. But they are truly embarrassing increases compared to workers whose earnings have stalled for years.

Still, multimillion dollar annual paychecks spark less outcry these days given the drastic surge in income inequality by the top 1 percent and the explosion in numbers of the nation's and world's billionaire class. Even at $10.5 million a year, it would take Jabil CEO Mondello nearly 1,350 years to make as much as Florida's richest billionaire and digital stock trader, Thomas Peterffy, whose wealth weighs in at $13.5 billion.

• Locally, one of the biggest financial windfalls of this year probably will belong to Trevor Burgess, CEO and co-founder of C1 Bank in St. Petersburg. The C1 name is about to disappear once its buyer, Bank of the Ozarks, completes its acquisition. (You may have seen Bank of the Ozarks ads in the newspaper offering a 1.26 annual percentage yield on a 15-month CD. But C1 branches won't become Bank of the Ozarks offices until June.)

Burgess hit the jackpot in the golden parachute executed by the sale of the bank he helped found. Burgess is expected to reap more than $40 million in the deal.

• This year's presidential campaigns are putting a spotlight back on highly paid Americans, including CEOs. The backlash fuels the populist themes of the 2016 race.

Yet most consumers grossly underestimate what CEOs are paid, says the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University which recently conducted a nationwide survey of 1,202 individuals. "Disclosed CEO pay at Fortune 500 companies is ten times what the average American believes those CEOs earn," the study found. "The typical American believes a CEO earns $1 million in pay." Lower income respondents (below $20,000) believe CEOs earn $500,000.

The survey's conclusion? "CEOs are vastly overpaid, according to most Americans," it states.

Can't argue with that finding. But CEO pay in Tampa Bay? It may feel rich. But it's still modest compared to the vast sums enjoyed by many executives running the country's biggest corporations.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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