×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mega Payday: Discovery CEO David Zaslav Earns $156.1 Million for 2014

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav received an astounding $156.1 million in compensation last year, the company disclosed Friday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The vast majority of the windfall comes from more than $144 million in stock awards that Zaslav received after setting a new six-year employment contract last year.

In fairness, those awards will vest over time, which means that Zaslav did not actually command a $156.1 million paycheck. SEC rules mandate that Discovery record the entire value of stock awards to be doled out over the six-year contract in the first year that they are granted. Zaslav’s paydays in the coming years will be far lower. In 2013, Zaslav received $33 million, with $22.5 million coming from stock awards.

The stock awards are largely tied to the company’s performance during the next six years. That means his actual haul could wind up being nothing if Discovery’s stock falls below pre-determined targets, or it could be worth more, if the share price exceeds those benchmarks.

Nonetheless, the symbolism of a nine-figure payday in a single year is sure to stir outrage and debate among corporate watchdogs and governance experts.

In the filing, Discovery emphasized Zaslav’s track record in expanding the company’s operations and diversifying its international portfolio since he signed on as CEO in 2007. The company’s market cap has soared from $5 billion when he joined to $20 billion in 2014.

“This contract rewards Mr. Zaslav for the value he has created and the continued strategic direction he provides and requires sustained performance over time for that award to have value,” the filing states. “At the end of his contract, Mr. Zaslav will own a substantial amount of equity of Discovery, which reinforces his alignment with our shareholders and encourages long-term ownership of our stock.”

The new contract also has clauses designed to ensure that Zaslav has incentive to remain at the helm through the term of the deal. He has to hold on to 60% of his Discovery stock through the contract that runs through the end of 2019. He also has to use 35% of the cash proceeds from any stock sales to buy more Discovery shares.

Zaslav’s base salary is set at $3 million for the six-year term of the contract. His potential cash bonus will be limited to a maximum of $6.6 million for the next few years, increasing to $9 million in the final two years of the deal.

Zaslav is likely to wind up as one of the largest individual shareholders in Discovery by the time his contract is up. And he could become the single most powerful shareholder under a deal that Zaslav struck last year with John Malone, the cable mogul who has long had a sizable stake in Discovery Communications.

Zaslav has the right of first refusal to buy Malone’s preferred shares that give him 28.7% of the voting rights in Discovery — should Malone decided to sell. Malone (as an individual, not through Liberty Media) and Advance/Newhouse Communications, which controls 24.9% of voting shares, have been the dominant shareholders in Discovery for most of its 30-year history.

Zaslav’s stock-inflated pay packet is big, but it’s still not as big as the $384 million stock grant that Apple CEO Tim Cook received in 2011 when the company was eager to keep him in place following the death of Steve Jobs.

More TV

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

  • Punisher Jessica Jones

    Marvel's 'The Punisher,' 'Jessica Jones' Canceled at Netflix

    The last of Netflix’s Marvel shows are officially ending. “The Punisher” has been canceled after its second season, and the upcoming third season of “Jessica Jones” will be its last, Netflix confirmed on Monday. The announcement comes after Netflix gave the ax to its other Marvel series: “Daredevil,” “Iron First,” and “Luke Cage.” “Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ will [...]

  • SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake'

    SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake' With 'Desperate Parents' Producer

    SND, the commercial arm of the French TV network M6, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “Family Shake,” a comedy series written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc. SND is the latest vertically integrated French film group to start handling live-action series, following TF1 Studio, Studiocanal and Gaumont, among others. Produced by Gaëlle Cholet at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content