Why Some CEOs Deserve Their Big Salaries

More

Today CNN runs a list of the "top five most overpaid CEOs." I sort of hate this. Not because I don't like lists (I did click on it after all) but because I'm pretty exhausted with the overpaid CEO meme. Yes, corporate executives make exorbitant sums of money. But they're also in charge of companies that make exorbitant sums of money, and the difference between a well-run company and poorly run company is worth many times a CEO's salary. But even with that said, this list is weird.


The animating philosophy of CNN's definition of "overpaid" appears to be "your company stock went down in December 2008." But December 2008 was the nadir of the worst recession in decades. Just about every boat sunk in that falling tide. It's a bit like ranking a team's batters based on how they hit during a no-hitter.

But even with that said, why is Comcast CEO Brian Roberts on the list? Comcast's stock fell only 7 percent in 2008. In the second quarter of 2009, Comcast profit climbed 28 percent (up about $130 million) while competitor DirecTV's profit fell $50 million. Brian Roberts makes $40 million a year. Is he overpaid? Maybe not. The most overpaid CEO? Certainly not. If CNN is looking for a Brian Roberts overpaid by $40 million, leave my cable guy alone, and look at the second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In