Zaslav made headlines last year when Discovery disclosed that his compensation for 2018 reached $129.4 million, including the value of stock options that amounted to more than $100 million after Zaslav signed a new employment contract.
In 2019, Zaslav earned $3 million in salary and $21.8 million in bonuses, as well as stock options valued at $13.5 million, according to Discovery’s 2019 proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As a ratio against the median earnings of Discovery employees, Zaslav earned 578 times the $79,343 median for all employees. In 2018, the windfall from the stock awards lifted the pay ratio to 1511 to 1.
In 2018, Zaslav received $102 million in Discovery stock options in connection with the new contract and another $14.8 million in stock awards. He received a $9 million bonus and $3 million in regular salary. Per SEC rules, the stock awards are valued at the time they are granted even though the recipient can’t cash them in until a future specified date. Discovery’s stock price had been on a roll in 2018, which inflated the value at the time it was recorded for the proxy statement.
Rising executive pay has been a growing concern for investors and activists in recent years. But shareholders have also consistently voted down proposals to put tougher curbs on executive paychecks. Stock options that vest far into the future are seen as a way of aligning the interests of CEOs and shareholders. But there has been more scrutiny in recent years about whether too much focus on a company’s stock performance encourages short-term thinking and efforts to manipulate share prices.
Last year, Discovery’s second highest-paid corporate officer was Discovery International president-CEO Jean-Briac Perrette. Perrette took in $14.4 million, including $5.7 million in stock awards and a $4.7 million bonus. Bruce Campbell, Discovery’s chief development, distribution and legal officer, received $9.2 million, including a $4.1 million bonus.
Discovery shares were up 5.6% in trading Wednesday to close at $24.73.