Founding your own company comes with perks: autonomy, fulfillment, the pride of successfully bringing your creative vision to life. But some founders reap more benefits than just a flexible vacation schedule.
According to this year's Equilar 200 study, an annual partnership with The New York Times that analyzes the largest pay packages awarded to CEOs at U.S. public companies with more than $1 billion in revenue, a number of the top paid CEOs in the country are also founders. And who said you can't mix business with pleasure?
Here is a rundown of some of the most exuberant, outrageous, or simply immense pay packages received by founders among the top 200 best paid CEOs in 2017. (You might note the absence of Elon Musk. According to a representative from Equilar, Musk's salary for the 2017 fiscal year was just $49,920. However, recent confirmation of a $2.6 billion pay package might just earn him a place next year.)
1. W. Nicholas Howley, TransDigm Group: $61 million
W. Nicholas Howley's salary was only $7,000 in 2017. He didn't make a bonus. How then, did Howley end up as the sixth highest paid U.S. CEO in 2017 and the highest paid founder on Equilar's list? You may not recognize his name, but Howley is the brains behind TransDigm Group, a global manufacturer of engineered aerospace components. The majority of his pay came from the $9.7 million he received in stock options and the $51.2 million from "other types of compensation." This was Howley's last year as the CEO of TDG, as he stepped down from his position last month.
2. Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor: $43.1 million
Edging his way into the top 10 is TripAdvisor founder and CEO Stephen Kaufer, who earned just $1.2 million in 2014, taking a 96 percent pay cut from the year before. But it wasn't without reason. Kaufer embraced the loss back then, and in the subsequent years, because of the $38 million equity grant he received in 2013, and the promise of another in 2017. Although TripAdvisor's stock price dropped more than 66 percent over the past four years, Kaufer's $700,000 base salary has continued to be supplemented by the plan established in 2012. But don't worry, he's getting a $100,000 pay raise this year.
3. Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics: $35.8 million
Gaining ground on her position as the top paid female CEO of 2013, Martine Rothblatt, founder and chief executive of United Therapeutics, saw a 142 percent salary increase in 2017 that catapulted her right below Oracle's Safra Catz, landing her as the second highest paid female CEO in the country and the top paid female founder. Recovering from a more volatile period after shareholders criticized how much money she was making, her salary soared last year following a big jump in stock awards. As a transgender woman and one of only 16 female CEOs on the list, Rothblatt's success draws attention to the lack of gender diversity among top business executives.
4. Stephen A. Wynn, Wynn Resorts: $34.5 million
Not all CEOs were gratified for their work with stock-related benefits. Casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn, the founder and former CEO of Wynn Resorts (he stepped down after accusations of decades of sexual assault came to the surface) received slightly more outlandish benefits in return for his service: $910,345 worth of personal travel in the company plane, $71,461 of merchandise discounts, and a $503,831 sum accumulated by keeping a suite at the Las Vegas resort constantly reserved for his use. Despite his hearty 2017 earnings, which would take the median employee at Wynn Resorts more than 900 years to earn, Wynn will not be receiving severance pay from the company.
5. Reed Hastings, Netflix: $24.4 million
As Netflix's market value has soared--last week, the streaming service briefly overtook Disney and Comcast as the most valuable media company in the U.S.--CEO and founder Reed Hastings has been rewarded accordingly, earning a 5 percent pay raise from 2016 to take home $24.4 million last year. Hastings's base salary was $850,000, with the majority of his earnings coming from $23.5 million worth of options. However, Hastings isn't the only Netflix employee benefiting from the company's success. With a comparatively low CEO-to-worker pay ratio (Hastings makes 133 times more than the average Netflix worker), Hastings has been willing to share the wealth--albeit to a more limited degree. Netflix employees enjoy unlimited vacation and the company hosts an extremely generous parental leave policy, with one year of paid maternity or paternity leave. Like Hastings, Netflix employees are given the opportunity to allocate some of their salary to buy stock options.
6. Frederick W. Smith, FedEx: $15.6 million
FedEx CEO and founder Frederick Smith actually received less pay than he did in 2016, but he was still among the top paid CEOs in the country. Smith's pay package decreased by 7 percent this year, leaving him with a $15.6 million paycheck. It was comprised of a $1.3 million base salary, a $7.2 million bonus, $6.5 million in stock options, and $513,048 from other types of compensation. On top of all that, Smith received some pretty sizable perks, including $330,000 worth of personal security, such as the mandated use of the FedEx corporate aircraft for all travel, even personal travel, and residential security at his primary residence, all of which was paid for by FedEx.