Zaslav Reaps Big Payday

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Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav received a 48% bump in compensation in 2009 according to a recently filed proxy statement, hauling in nearly $12 million in salary and incentives during a year in which the cable programmer outperformed most of its peers.
According to the proxy statement filed March 24 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Zaslav took home $11.7 million in total compensation in 2009, a 48% increase from the $7.9 million he earned in 2008. Discovery had a strong year in 2009, with revenue and cash flow increasing 2% and 12% respectively and its stock price more than doubling to $30.67 per share. Moreover, Discovery also was the only publicly traded ad-supported cable network to report positive growth in advertising sales in 2009, finishing the year ahead 2%.

And though Zaslav appeared to receive a big raise in 2009, his compensation is about half what he earned in 2007, according to the proxy statement. In that year, Zaslav's first as CEO, the executive earned around $22.3 million, about $14 million of came in the form of stock options.

Dave Zaslav

According to the most recent proxy, Zaslav's $2 million base salary was unchanged and he received no bonus (compared to 2008 when he received a $3.5 million bonus). However, the CEO received $5.5 million in option awards (up from $2.1 million in 2008) and $3.9 million from the company's non-equity incentive plan (compared to $0 in 2008).
Other Discovery executives also showed healthy compensation increases in the year, including COO Mark Hollinger ($6.1 million, up 22% from $5 million in 2008) and digital media and corporate development president Bruce Campbell ($3.1 million, up 29% from $2.4 million in 2008).
Zaslav signed a new employment agreement earlier this year which expires in 2015 that boosts the CEO's annual base salary to $3 million beginning in 2011 and creates incentives that could reap the cable veteran more than $55 million over the life of the contract. And in January, he received stock appreciation rights- which are triggered automatically and which Zaslav had no control over -- worth $34 million.
While Zaslav and his executives reaped the rewards of a strong year, Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen took a 79% hit in total compensation for the year, earning $999,913 in total compensation in 2009, compared to $4.8 million in 2008.
According to Dish Network's proxy filed on March 24, Ergen received $623,078 in base salary (up 4% from $600,000 in 2008) and $376,835 in other compensation. The biggest decline for the satellite pioneer was in option awards -- he received $3.8 million in options in 2008 and no option awards in 2009, according to the proxy.