Two media CEOs among top in exit pay

Jack Welsh received four times as much as Tom Freston's $100 million

Hollywood stars are often criticized and envied for commanding lavish pay. But when an actor’s career wanes, so does the cash.

Not so with corporate CEOs. GMI Ratings, an independent corporate governance research and rating agency, recently looked at exit packages given to business honchos since 2000, and found 21 of them worth at least $100 million. The list was bookended by CEOs of companies with media businesses.

Coming in last in this exclusive club is Tom Freston, who was tapped to head Viacom in 2006 when controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone decided to split off CBS. After only nine months as CEO, Freston was pushed out by Redstone, reportedly for failing to win a bidding war for social media site MySpace. If Freston suffered any hurt feelings, they were probably soothed by a golden parachute that GMI estimates was worth $100,839,772.

Freston’s deal was pocket change for Jack Welch, who retired in 2001 from General Electric (then full owner of NBC) with a record $417,361,902 package. GMI adds that Welch’s pension and non-qualified deferred compensation alone will provide $9 million a year for the rest of his life.

In fairness, Welch worked for GE for 41 years, including 20 as CEO.

GMI’s calculations don’t include his Social Security benefits.