Warner Bros. Discovery, Grappling With Debt, Has Room for Bonuses for Executives Who Can Reduce Some

David Zaslav Sun Valley
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Warner Bros. Discovery, which is struggling with billions of dollars in debt, is willing to pay more money to executives who might be able to help reduce it.

The owner of HBO, Discovery Channel and Food Network said Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it would pay out new rewards to CEO David Zaslav, six senior staffers and an unspecified group of others if they could meet certain goals of new generation of free cash flow.

“The changes to the Warner Bros. Discovery executive compensation program are designed to further incentivize Company employees, including members of its leadership team and others whose efforts are critical to achieving the key near-term financial objectives of increased free cash flow and reduced leverage,” said WBD board chairman Samuel A. Di Piazza, Jr. in a prepared statement.“The WBD board is confident that these additional incentives offer a more competitive package against the backdrop of ongoing industry-wide transformation and economic headwinds, and better position the company to advance core drivers of shareholder value.”

Under the plan, Zaslav, already one of the nation’s highest-paid corporate executives, could receive as much as $35 million in restricted stock tied to certain performance goals. The company also set aside $27 million in stock awards for top executives. Chief revenue and strategy officer Bruce Campbell, CFO Gunnar Weidenfels and head of global streaming and games JB Perrette would each get $2 million, while international chief Gerhard Zeiler could get $1.5 million, and chief people and culture officer Adria Alpert Romm and general counsel Savelle Sims would get $1 million each.

Approximately $15 million in restricted stock units will be set aside for “other employees throughout the organization, whose retention and efforts are also important to the success of our initiatives with respect to free cash flow and leverage reduction,” Warner Bros. Discovery said in the SEC filing.

Zaslav’s total compensation in 2021 came to $246 million.

Warner Bros. Discovery has been under extreme pressure to lower its debt, and the company has cut staffing levels, scuttled major plans like the CNN+ streaming service, and taken $3.5 billion in content writedowns.

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