Where The Money Is: Warner CEO Gets $50M This Year

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav saw the value of his 2023 compensation package rise to $49.7 million, compared with $39.3 million in 2022 when the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger had closed.

The entertainment conglomerate disclosed latest pay details for its top executives in a regulatory filing.

Zaslav’s 2023 pay consisted of a $3 million salary, and more than $23 million in stock awards, as well as $22 million in non-equity incentive compensation and $1.6 million in other compensation, including security costs. The rise in compensation was due in part to a decision by WBD to change its executive compensation plan to focus on cash flow, rather than stock price. In 2023 WBD’s free cashflow rose in part due to the Hollywood strikes, which shut down productions for months.

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In 2021, then-Discovery CEO Zaslav had received a pay package worth $246.6 million, a big jump from $37.7 million in 2020 and $45.8 million in 2019. That was driven by a May 2021 employment agreement that was set to keep Zaslav at the company through the end of 2027. (Stock options that he received related to the extension boosted the calculated value of his 2021 compensation package, even though they didn’t lead to any immediate payouts, with much of the compensation set to vest over the course of his employment contract period.)

Warner Bros. Discovery’s stock rose 20 percent in 2023, while its financials were mixed. Annual revenue fell 4 percent in 2023 to $41.3 billion, while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 11 percent to $10.2 billion. Free cash flow, another profitability metric that shows a company’s ability to finance its business without the need for outside funding and is a big focus for WBD management, jumped 86 percent to $6.2 billion.

The filing also disclosed pay for other top WBD executives, with CFO Gunnar Weidenfels taking home more than $17 million; chief revenue and strategy officer Bruce Campbell earning $18.3 million; streaming and games chief JB Perrette seeing comp of $20.1 million; and international chief Gerhard Zeiler earning $13.3 million, all up substantially from the year prior.

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