5 CEOs Who Earn Surprisingly Small Salaries

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Chief Executive Officer: a title that has come to be associated with wealth, status, power, and even greed. Because there are only around 400,000 of them in the country, and they spend an average of 12.8 years at a company before being appointed into their positions, they are in an elite group.
Because of their status, the public views CEOs as decision makers, blaming them for a company’s indiscretions and crediting them for anything a company does right. This is, of course, in spite of the fact that they have shareholders, a board of directors, and other stakeholders who also play a large role in the corporate decision making process.
Some people have preconceived notions about CEOs, picturing an older individual, probably male, who’s carrying money bags — like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons or the Monopoly man. But over the past few years, we’ve heard an array of surprising statistics about CEOs — some of them positive and some of them, not so good. Many of these stats relate to CEO pay.
Perhaps the most famous one was from last year, which stated that a CEO makes 380 times that of an average worker. Stats like these, combined with all of the reports we hear about corporations using tax loopholes and reports of worker layoffs, have given people a bad taste in their mouths about these executives.
However, there are a lot of CEOs out there who earn really low salaries, and we’ve created a list of these individuals. Keep in mind that a low salary does not equal a low income or financial struggles. Some of these CEOs have significant overall compensation, often in the form of stock awards. Some may have a system setup where they succeed if the company succeeds, just as shareholders do.
Although we have no way of knowing whether an individual’s reasons for taking a low salary are altruistic or if the individual is simply seeking monetary or other incentives, we do know based on their net worths that in spite of their low salaries, they are still doing just fine financially. Some of these CEOs earn a less-than-minimum-wage salary, yet their net worths are over $1 billion. All salary data is from Salary.com and all net worth data is from Forbes.
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard

  • Annual salary: $1
  • Total compensation (2013): $17.6 million
  • Net worth: $1.95 billion

HP is a household name. From printers to laptops to desktop computers, the HP name is on a variety of computer technology. Whitman, a self-made billionaire who joined the company in 2011, has only taken a $1 salary since she joined HP. But, according to Hewlett-Packard’s 2014 proxy statement, she will receive a $1.5 million base salary during fiscal year 2014. According to Business Insider, in spite of her $1 salary in 2013, “her total compensation was up to $17.6 million, with $12.7 million of that in stock options and $4.4 million in stock awards.”

Source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners

Energy Transfer Partners is a natural gas and propane corporation. Although it’s a Fortune 500 company, it’s not as well-known as HP or Facebook. According to Energy Transfer Partners’ proxy statement, the corporation says its compensation philosophy is that it attempts to provide (for both base salary and any other awards) at or below the median for its peer group. The statement also asserts that the CEO has “voluntarily elected to forgo any annual bonuses.”

Alan Staats/Getty Images
Alan Staats/Getty Images

Richard Kinder, CEO of Kinder Morgan

  • Salary: $1 per year
  • Total compensation (2013): Same as salary
  • Net worth: $10.9 billion

In case you haven’t heard of it, Kinder Morgan is a midstream energy company. Richard Kinder, the company’s CEO, requested a $1 per year base salary, according to Kinder Morgan’s 2013 proxy statement. The statement also asserts that Mr. Kinder does not receive compensation in other forms like annual bonuses or equity. In spite of his low salary, Kinder has earned a spot on a few highest-paid CEOs lists. According to a Motley Fool’s list of the Highest-Paid CEOs in 2013, Kinder received stock units several years back — around the year 2007 — that have increased dramatically in value (to over $1 billion as of 2013).

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Carl Icahn, Founder, Icahn Capital Management

“As of June 30, 2014, funds managed by Carl Icahn at Icahn Capital Management were valued at $28.5 billion,” according to Stockpickr. Icahn has had an impressive portfolio over the years, that’s included big names like Netflix and eBay. CNN reports that most of Ichan’s other pay is for essentials like medical and dental benefits, and for a few extras, like use of a company plane.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerburg is one of the most well-known CEOs. Perhaps because as of earlier this year, over 1.2 billion people used Facebook, which is truly impressive when you think about the fact that it’s only about 10 years old. Zuckerburg recently joined the $1 salary club in 2013.
According to Facebook’s proxy statement, “the compensation committee reviews base salaries for our executive officers at least annually and may adjust them from time to time, if needed, to reflect changes in market conditions or other factors.” Zuckerburg did not take part in the 2013 bonus plan, but he did receive $653,164 in “other compensation.”
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