Latest in executive pay: Bill the company for personal private jet travel

Relax. Sit back. And forget, for a moment, those pesky shareholders and bothersome boards, the regulations, the investigations and all the other headaches of being a chief executive today.

Dodd-Frank rules? Securities and Exchange Commission lawyers? Leave them behind. And let yourself sink into the buttery leather seat of your corporate jet as it soars through the clouds.

That’s what Steve Wynn did. As chief executive of Wynn Resorts, he sat back and enjoyed more than a million dollars’ worth of personal travel last year on his company’s private jet.

It gets better: in December, the company took delivery of the first G650 jet to roll off Gulfstream‘s assembly line. A $65 million wonder, the plane can whisk Wynn from Las Vegas, where Wynn Resorts has its headquarters, to New York, where he owns a $70 million penthouse overlooking Central Park, and it should make 2013 another busy year aloft for him. (Wynn Resorts declined to comment.)

Indeed, while Wynn may have been a very frequent flier in 2012 among chief executives listed in an annual survey of executive pay conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, an executive compensation data firm, he has plenty of company in the shareholder-unfriendly skies.

As CEO of Hertz, Mark Frissora pushes rental cars, but he racked up nearly a half-million dollars’ worth of personal travel on the corporate jet last year.

Marsh & McLennan, the risk management company, doesn’t own its own plane – it prefers holding a fractional share of a jet – but that didn’t stop its chief, Brian Duperreault, from running up $441,875 in private plane travel on the company tab before he retired at year-end.

These highfliers help explain why pay for perks like jet travel and other supplemental benefits including pension contributions and life insurance policies jumped last year, even as overall compensation rose only modestly.

For the 100 highest-paid CEOs among American companies with revenue of more than $5 billion, the typical 2012 perks package was worth $320,635, up 18.7 per cent from 2011, according to an analysis by Equilar for The Times. By contrast, median total pay among the 100 CEOs rose just 2.8 per cent, to more than $14 million.

The data are preliminary – public companies have 120 days after their fiscal year-end to disclose the pay of top executives in their proxies. Many corporations whose fiscal year ended in December won’t file before the end of April.

Still, the data reveal the contours of executive pay packages. Besides the jump in perks, overall cash compensation also made a comeback, rising 19.7 per cent, to $5.7 million. Cash bonuses jumped 25 per cent.

The highest-paid CEO, Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle, perennially ranks among the best-paid executives, but other leaders in 2012 didn’t come from sectors where you might expect to find them, like technology or Wall Street.

Instead, companies with familiar brand names were among the most generous, with Robert A. Iger of Disney, Mark G. Parker of Nike, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express all in the top 10, each with more than $25 million in total compensation.

The second-highest-paid chief executive on the list, Richard M. Bracken of the hospital chain HCA, received more than half his pay in the form of special compensation worth nearly $22 million, but it was nearly all from dividends rather than traditional perks like the company plane.

Read the full story at the New York Times website

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