Charter Communications chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge received $98.5 million in total compensation in 2016, more than six times his take-home haul of $16.4 million in the previous year and driven mainly by healthy increases in option awards, according to a proxy statement filed Thursday.
Rutledge’s base salary stayed constant for the year at $2 million, but he reaped $77.9 million in option awards, a more than nine-fold increase over the $8 million in option awards he received in 2015.
The same held true for other top Charter executives. Chief operating officer John Bickham received $47.4 million in total compensation in 2016, a five-fold increase from the $8.7 million he earned in 2015. Option awards were the main driver -- $35.3 million in 2016 vs. $4.5 million in the previous year.
Chief financial officer Christopher Winfrey received $29.2 million in total compensation in 2016, up from just $3.7 million in 2015 and fueled by a $23 million option award.
EVP and chief marketing officer Jonathan Hargis got a 325% raise in 2016 to $15.03 million from $3.6 million in the previous year. His compensation was also driven by a hefty increase in option awards -- $11.1 million in 2016 vs. $2.2 million in 2015.
In the proxy, Charter noted that the option awards were heavily weighted toward stock performance over a six-year period, with the lowest goal a 30% increase in the per share price measured from the time of the grant and the most stringent a 155% increase in the same time frame. Charter shares were up about 27% in 2016 and have risen about 357% over the past five years, according to the proxy.
Also according to the proxy, the equity awards granted in 2016 are the only such awards to be granted through 2020 except in the case of promotion.
In a statement, Charter said the purchase of Time Warner Cable and Brght House Netowrks in May essentuially increased the size of the company four-fold and that its exective compensation including a five-year long-term incentive program and new five-year employment agreements are "structured to ensure the retention of the highest caliber executives through the integration process and a strong alignment with the long-term interests of the company's stockholders."