Analysis: Triangle CEOs pay soared in 2021
Leaders of the Triangle's largest companies received substantial pay raises last year, according to an Axios analysis of financial disclosures from publicly traded firms in the region.
What's happening: Many of the raises totaled millions of dollars. They came as profits soared during an economic expansion last year.
- On average, Triangle CEOs saw their total compensation grow by 50.6%.
- Most of the gains came in the form of stock grants or options, which came while the stock market hit record highs.
Why it matters: As the stock market soared, CEOs were positioned to benefit significantly more than the average employee.
- Top wage earners have significantly increased their purchasing power in the Triangle. The area has since seen sales of million-dollar homes jump to all-time highs.
Yes, but: The stock market has declined so far in 2022, meaning some compensation numbers are likely worth less now.
What they're saying: Gerald Cohen, chief economist for the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, said surging CEO pay is another sign of a “superstar effect” that has taken hold in the corporate world.
- "The gap between a middle manager and the CEO has increased, even though they may have similar degrees," Cohen told Axios. "That's this kind of superstar effect.”
By the numbers: Ari Bousbib, CEO of the Durham clinical research company IQVIA, was the highest paid leader of a Triangle company. His total compensation last year was $28.6 million, an 11.9% increase from 2020.
- The only CEO to report a decline in compensation was David Morken, of Raleigh communications tech firm Bandwidth. His salary dropped from $3.7 million to $3.4 million.
- Laura Niklason, CEO of Durham biotech company Humacyte, saw the biggest raise. Her compensation soared from $201,283 to $10.8 million, after taking her company public in 2021 via a special acquisition company.
Median wages for workers at Triangle companies did not increase at nearly the same rate as CEOs.
- Of the few companies that reported pay ratios between CEOs and median workers, Advance Auto had the largest, with CEO Thomas Greco making 204 times the median employee.
- The gap was the smallest at Aerie Pharmaceuticals, where CEO Raj Kannan made 25 times the median employee.
Of note: Many of the Triangle’s largest employers are private companies or satellite offices for firms headquartered elsewhere.
- For instance, compensation for SAS Institute CEO Jim Goodnight and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney — two billionaire founders of private tech companies — are not available to the public.
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