Last year the chairman, president and CEO of Oregon-based Nike was paid $47.6 million, making him the highest-paid public company executive in the Northwest. In keeping with a corporate trend, most of that money is in stock grants tied to Nike’s performance over several years.
The athletic footwear and apparel business has been good to Mark Parker.
Last year the chairman, president and CEO of Oregon-based Nike was paid $47.6 million, making him the highest-paid public-company executive in the Northwest, according to data provided by California-based research firm Equilar.
Parker’s compensation jumped 183 percent, largely because of a $30 million stock grant by the company’s board of directors.
Directors granted the award because of Nike’s performance under Parker and their desire to keep the 61-year-old executive on the job for a few more years, according to disclosure statements. (Nike’s proxy is filed in late July; The Seattle Times/Equilar Pacific Northwest CEO Pay survey used the one filed last July for Nike’s fiscal year ending May 31, 2016.)
Special Report: CEO Pay
- What the bosses make: Compare the compensation for 96 Northwest CEOs
- NW CEOs sitting pretty, despite public’s view that they’re paid too much
- Nike’s Mark Parker leads the pack, thanks to a rich stock grant
- Women CEOs rare at U.S. public companies, and even scarcer in Pacific Northwest
- At biggest U.S. companies, CEOs got a nice raise last year
- Few women among nation’s CEOs, but they are well paid
- Extreme compensation has become the norm | Jon Talton
Parker won’t get all of the stock unless he stays with the company until 2020 and the company hits specific revenue and earnings targets.
His payday exemplifies a wider trend among public companies. Corporate directors are now more likely to pay CEOs with performance-based stock grants than with stock options, said Matthew Goforth, a research manager with Equilar.
A stock option is the right to buy shares at a preset “exercise” price within a defined period of time, such as 10 years. Stock options often vest in stages, over time, as an incentive for the CEO to stay on the job.
The board of directors for XYZ Corp., for example, may pay their CEO with options for 40,000 shares, with 10,000 shares vesting each year for four years, at an exercise price of $25 a share. If the stock price exceeds $25 on the open market, the CEO can exercise the vested shares, sell them on the market and pocket the difference.
The options are worthless if the market price for the shares falls below $25.
A stock grant, meanwhile, is a direct stock award in which the CEO’s ownership in the shares vests over time. Increasingly, corporate directors are making stock grants to their CEOs contingent upon the company hitting specific performance targets, such as revenue and income benchmarks.
In 2012 about 80 percent of the largest 500 companies awarded stock options, while about 60 percent awarded stock grants.
Five years later, the preferences among large companies were reversed. In 2016 about 60 percent of them awarded options, while about 80 percent relied on stock grants, Goforth said.
Options are losing their luster because they can dilute shares, and influential shareholder-advisory firms do not see options as performance-based awards, he said.
Northwest public companies reflect the trend. Sixty-three percent of the public companies in Washington, Oregon and Idaho awarded stock grants to their CEOs last year. Exactly half of them awarded stock options.
Corporate directors have long argued that CEOs are more focused on company performance when they have large ownership stakes. By paying CEOs with stock, directors compensate their executive and increase his or her ownership at the same time.
But critics say the practice is a recipe for opportunistic decisions. They say stock awards can tempt CEOs into manipulating short-term share prices to their financial benefit.
The Northwest’s best-paid CEOs got a majority of their pay from stock grants and options last year.
During his last full year as Starbucks CEO in 2016, Howard Schultz was paid $21.8 million, making him second only to Parker. Seventy-seven percent of his compensation was either stock grants or options.
No. 3 was John Legere, the president and CEO of Bellevue-based T-Mobile. His total compensation added up to $20 million, with about 64 percent of his pay in stock.
Coming in at No. 4 was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. About 67 percent of his $17.6 million in pay was stock.
A newcomer to the elite ranks of CEO pay, at No. 5, is Adam Selipsky, the president and CEO of Seattle-based Tableau Software. Tableau’s board lured Selipsky away from his executive position at Amazon Web Services with a 2016 pay package worth $16.4 million, according to Equilar.
A company spokeswoman said Tableau does not comment on compensation. But disclosure statements show that the company’s directors gave Selipsky a $1 million signing bonus.
They also opted for above-average equity payments, in the hope that Selipsky’s stock holdings would serve as an incentive and align his interests with Tableau shareholders.
More than 90 percent of Selipsky’s compensation consists of stock grants and options.
The largest percent increase in Northwest CEO pay last year went to Gregory Demopulos, the chairman, president and CEO of Omeros, a biopharmaceutical company based in Seattle.
His year-over-year pay soared 833 percent because of stock options valued at $5.3 million. A cash bonus bumped his 2016 pay another $248,595, to a total of $6.3 million.