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$4,913 an HOUR: How much Australia’s top 20 CEOs get paid

·3-min read
Left to right: Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci; Qantas CEO Alan Joyce; CSL CEO Paul Perreault. (Source: Getty, AAP)
Left to right: Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci; Qantas CEO Alan Joyce; CSL CEO Paul Perreault. (Source: Getty, AAP)

682 years and four months: that’s roughly how long it would take for someone on Australia’s average salary of $63,085 to earn what Australia’s best-paid CEO earned in the 2020 financial year.

Paul Perreault, the chief of multinational biotechnology giant CSL (CSL:AX), took home $43,044,606 in realised pay last financial year, new data has revealed, making him the nation’s highest-paid CEO. Realised pay includes the value of both cash and equity, such as shares, received by the executive.

His massive salary has set a new record, too, as the first time CEO pay in Australia has pushed past $40 million. In the 2019 financial year, Perreault’s pay was $30.53 million, meaning he saw a whopping 40.9 per cent pay rise.

Broken down per day, Perreault made $117,930 a day, or $4,913.77 an hour. That’s 241.7 times higher than the national minimum wage of $20.33 an hour.

Australia’s second-highest paid CEO is Bill Beaument, the chief of gold producing company Northern Star (NST.AX), who raked in $31,783,929 last financial year, according to the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI)’s new report on ASX200 CEO pay.

This was followed by commercial property group Goodman Group (GMG.AX)’s Greg Goodman, at $26.87 million, and then investment bank boss Macquarie Group (MBLPC.AX)’s Shemara Wikramanayake at $16.39 million.

Woolworths (WOW.AX) boss Brad Banducci is Australia’s sixth-highest paid CEO, taking home $12.68 million last financial year.

(Source: ACSI report, 'CEO PAY IN THE ASX200', 2021)
(Source: ACSI report, 'CEO PAY IN THE ASX200', 2021)

Rio Tinto (RIO.AX)’s former chief Jean-Sebastien Jacques still managed to make $11.88 million despite resigning amid the Juukan Gorge scandal.

Qantas (QAN.AX) boss Alan Joyce is Australia’s 12th-best paid chief, at $10.74 million.

Not a single Big Four Bank boss has made the list in four years, according to the ACSI report.

“The last was Commonwealth Bank (CBA.AX)’s Ian Narev in 2016, who earned $12.26 million on a realised pay basis and $8.77 million in reported pay,” the report said.

Industrial and medical protective glove manufacturer Ansell (ANN.AX)'s chief Magnus Nicolin was last on the top 20 list, bringing home $7.47 million last financial year.

But it would still take about 118.5 years for the average Aussie to earn how much Nicolin earned in a year.

Overall, CEO pay fell in FY2020

More broadly, CEO pay actually fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade, thanks to the pandemic, with median realised pay for ASX100 CEOs dropping by 3.6 per cent.

For CEOs in the top ASX 101-200 companies, the drop was even further, at 22 per cent to dip below $1.7 million.

And nearly a third (31 per cent) of ASX100 chiefs didn’t get to take home a bonus at all for “performance reasons”, the report said.

Those that did get their bonus found their cash boost was lower than normal, with the median bonus outcome basically halved to 31 per cent, down from 60 per cent in the 2019 financial year.

“Australia’s largest companies have mostly shown discipline and restraint in unprecedented circumstances,” ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said.

This remuneration restraint wasn’t something that was witnessed during the global financial crisis, when executives were still being paid bonuses in “direct contrast” to the negative outcomes companies were delivering to shareholders.

“Engagement between investors and company boards has led to a wholesale re-thinking of the ways in which CEOs, and their teams, should be rewarded to ensure long-term gains for all,” said Davidson.

Boards of ASX companies “largely rose to the challenge” of COVID-19, ensuring that bonuses were “truly earned, not just windfalls from being in the right place in troubled times,” she added.

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