CEOs are among the highest-paid professionals in the world. While this doesn’t hold true across the board, the CEOs on this list are never hurting for money. And not only are they well compensated for the work they do, but they often have additional earning power for reaching specific goals, such as those tied to revenue and growth. Add this to an extreme amount of power, and it’s easy to see why so many people strive to become a CEO.
Elon Musk: Tesla
In today’s world, you don’t have to look hard to find a story about Elon Musk or Tesla. For example, the Tesla Cybertruck release made headlines for quite a few days (and the excitement is just picking up).
Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla, one of the fastest-growing auto manufacturers in the world. With total compensation of $2,284,044,884, you can expect to find Musk at the top of every “highest-paid CEO in the world” list. In fact, with compensation like that, there aren’t too many people in the world who out-earn him.
David M. Zaslav: Discovery Inc.
As the CEO and president of Discovery Inc., David Zaslav is one of the highest-paid executives in the world.
He has held this position since 2007, thus giving him plenty of opportunities to bankroll quite a bit of money. As one of the most well-known mass media companies in the world, famous for its flagship brand the Discovery Channel, Zaslav is in a position to continue his earnings well into the future. Zaslav was compensated $129,499,005 for his work at Discovery Inc. in 2018.
Nikesh Arora: Palo Alto Networks Inc.
Although Nikesh Arora has only been the CEO of Palo Alto Networks Inc. since June 1, 2018, it hasn’t stopped him from earning quite a bit of money. The former Google executive and current CEO of one of the world’s most well-known multinational cybersecurity companies has a total compensation package that would make most people jealous.
Upon signing on as the company’s CEO, he was awarded $19 million in restricted stock that vests over four years. This is in addition to stock awards worth $39.3 million, with option awards topping out at $72 million. Arora is the perfect example of a CEO earning big money through means other than a standard salary.
Mark V. Hurd: Oracle
As the co-CEO of Oracle, Mark V. Hurd earned more than $108 million in compensation in 2018. A small amount of this was salary — $950,000 — with the “real money” awarded as $103,700,000 in stock options.
Oracle is an American multinational computer technology corporation that has been a strong performer in its industry since 1977. And since Hurd took over on September 6, 2010, the company has grown to greater heights.
Safra A. Catz: Oracle
Safra A. Catz also holds the title of CEO at Oracle. While she first joined the company in April 1999, it wasn’t until September 18, 2014, when she was named co-CEO along with Mark V. Hurd.
Catz has been instrumental in the growth of the company over the past five years, and she has been paid accordingly. With total compensation of $40.7 million in 2018, Catz is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world.
Brendan Kennedy: Tilray
As the CEO and President of Tilray, Brendan Kennedy is quickly rising up the list of the highest-paid CEOs in the world. In 2018, this was largely the result of a $256 million pre-IPO bonus. And even though this bonus won’t come around every year, it’s safe to assume that Kennedy will still earn big money for his role leading the company.
Tilray is a pharmaceutical and cannabis company with operations all over the world. And with the cannabis market growing by leaps and bounds, the company is in a good position to continue its growth.
Bob Iger: Walt Disney
In 2018, Bob Iger of Walt Disney earned $65,645,214, which once again made him one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world. The Walt Disney Co. is famous for everything from its amusement parks to movies.
While the company has had many CEOs over the years, Iger held the position since 2005. It was believed that he would move on from his position of CEO and chairman of Disney when his contract expired in 2021. He announced his departure in February of 2020, however.
Tim Cook: Apple
Tim Cook earned more than $136 million in 2018, thanks in large part to vested stock in Apple. Just the same as The Walt Disney Co., Apple needs no introduction. It’s known the world over for both its software and hardware, such as the popular iPhone and Mac computers.
Since taking over as CEO of Apple on August 24, 2011, Cook has been a big hit with the company and its fans. With no reason to believe he’s stepping down any time soon, Cook should remain at the top of this list well into the future.
James Heppelmann: PTC
While the average person may not know much about PTC Inc., it’s one of the largest and most successful computer software and services companies in the world. CEO James Heppelmann is at the helm, and he took home total compensation of more than $71 million in 2018.
While his base salary and bonus are nothing to sneeze at — totaling roughly $2 million – the majority of his compensation was tied to performance goals set by the company. Heppelmann may not be at the top of the list, but he’s clearly one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world.
Stephen Schwarzman: Blackstone Group LP
CEOs of well-established, highly successful investment groups have the potential to bring home serious money. Just ask Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group LP. Unlike many names on this list, Schwarzman founded the company that he is now the CEO of.
Upon founding the company in 1985, Schwarzman’s compensation was nothing like it is today. With a total package of approximately $69 million in 2018, he’s come a long way since the early days. And as long as Blackstone Group LP continues to perform well for its clients, he can expect this to continue.
Stephen Angel: Linde PLC
Do you remember when Linde PLC and Praxair Inc. merged in 2018? Maybe not, but this was big news in the industrial gas industry. It was also big news for Stephen Angel, who served as CEO and chairman of Praxair from 2007 to 2018.
As he moved into the same position at Linde, he elected to receive a $48.9 million severance payout of the pension he earned while working at Praxair. And that didn’t even take into consideration the millions he received in stock and option awards, which pushed his total compensation for the year to $66.2 million.
Patrick Smith: Axon Enterprise, Inc.
Patrick Smith of Axon Enterprise, Inc. often flies under the radar in regards to name recognition, but that hasn’t stopped him from earning big money as CEO of Axon Enterprise, Inc. In 2018, his total compensation was $246,026,710, placing him far behind Elon Musk of Tesla but far in front of pretty much everyone else.
As a company that develops technology and weapons products for law enforcement and civilians, there will always be a market for Axon’s products.
Jay Levine: OneMain Holdings, Inc.
Jay Levine of OneMain Holdings, Inc. is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world that you may have never heard of. OneMain Holdings is a consumer finance company with more than 10,000 employees and a customer base well into the millions.
Levine was compensated nicely for his contributions to the company in 2018, with his total income sitting at $71,532,583. With money like that, it’s hard to believe that many people have never heard his name!
John Legere: T-Mobile US, Inc.
John Legere is one of the most well-known names on this list, and not because he earned compensation of $66,538,206 in 2018. It’s because he’s the CEO of T-Mobile US, one of the biggest and successful wireless network operators in the world.
Although he has done big things for the company since taking over as CEO in September 2012, Legere has plans to step down from this position when his current contract expires on April 30, 2020. It’ll be interesting to see if the next CEO earns as much money!
Gary Steele: Proofpoint, Inc.
Gary Steele of Proofpoint, Inc. is no stranger to a big payday. In 2018, his total compensation package was $64,730,296, with a large majority of that coming by way of stock awards.
As an enterprise security company, Proofpoint provides products and services for almost every aspect of the digital world, including inbound email security, email encryption, social media, outbound data loss prevention, electronic discovery, and email archiving. With security concerns on the rise, Proofpoint is positioned to continue its growth.
Stephane Bancel: Moderna, Inc.
Stephane Bancel has been the CEO of Moderna, Inc. since October 2011. While he hasn’t always been one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world, he was in 2018 thanks to a total compensation package of $58,608,484.
Bancel is CEO of one of the most complex companies on this list, as Moderna is a biotechnology company with a strong focus on drug discovery and development. A company like this needs strong leadership to thrive, and Bancel gives them that.
Tony James: Blackstone Group LP
Hamilton “Tony” James is the former president and chief operating officer at Blackstone. He’s served as the firm’s executive vice-chairman since 2018. As president, James earned a $350,000 salary and received an astonishing $23.5 million bonus. Forbes estimates his net worth as of 2018 to be $1.93 billion.
A philanthropist at heart, James heads the finance committee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He’s also a trustee at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society, among other organizations.
Dara Khosrowshahi: Uber Technologies, Inc.
Dara Khosrowshahi is no stranger to the title of CEO, as he held the position at Expedia Group for many years. At Uber Technologies, he’s in charge of one of the fastest-growing and most valuable companies in the world. And get this: the company paid him approximately $200 million to become its CEO.
In 2018, Khosrowshahi earned total compensation of $45,330,702. The ridesharing company has faced many challenges over the years, and it’s up to Khosrowshahi to steady the boat.
Vivek Shah: j2 Global, Inc.
Vivek Shah is the CEO of j2 Global, Inc., a technology company that provides a variety of internet services through a variety of subsidiaries.
At 32-years-old, Shah is one of the youngest CEOs on this list. But his age hasn’t hindered his earning power. In 2018, his total compensation checked in at $45,062,153, with $35,494,000 the value of stock awards. The future is bright for Shah, and so is his income earning potential.
Richard Handler: Jefferies Financial Group, Inc.
Richard Handler (pictured left) has been the CEO of Jefferies Financial Group, Inc. since January 1, 2001. For his role in the company, Handler earned a compensation of $44,674,213 in 2018. In addition to a $1 million salary, he earned $38,722,504 in stock awards and over $4 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation.
Jefferies Financial Group, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company with revenue of approximately $11.436 billion and more than 12,000 employees.