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Viacom, CBS chiefs stand to reap big rewards post-merger

The heads of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. both stand to cash in on the pending merger of the two companies, propelling them up the ranks of the most highly compensated U.S. media network bosses.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish's total compensation in fiscal 2018 ranked on the lower end of his peers, while CBS President and acting CEO Joe Ianniello's compensation was more middle of the pack, according to an analysis of compensation data by S&P Market Global Intelligence. While neither executive is in line for a salary raise following the creation of ViacomCBS, both stand to receive increases in stock and other compensation that would significantly boost their total pay.

Ianniello received a compensation package totaling $27.3 million in 2018, more than half of which came from his $15.1 million salary, which was significantly higher than the rest of the group. Ianniello also received a combined $12.2 million in stocks and options.

Bakish, on the other hand, collected $9.4 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation, comprising nearly half of his $20.0 million total pay package in 2018. Bakish received a combined $7.5 million in stocks and options in 2018, along with a salary of $3.1 million.

Discovery Inc. chief David Zaslav was the highest-paid CEO on the list, pulling in $129.5 million last year, driven by stock options. Zaslav last year signed a new employment contract that included a large up-front grant tied to the company's stock performance. In a regulatory filing on the executive's pay, Discovery also noted Zaslav's performance in integrating Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. and driving the combined company's direct-to-consumer and Olympics programming expansion. Zaslav's 2018 compensation was almost double that of The Walt Disney Co.'s Bob Iger, the second-highest-paid media CEO in S&P Global Market Intelligence's analysis.

The longtime Disney boss, who is steering the company toward a transition to the streaming realm with Hulu LLC, ESPN+ and the upcoming launch of direct-to-consumer entry Disney+, saw his compensation reach $65.7 million in 2018, tied largely to $35.4 million in stocks granted and $18.0 million from nonequity plan incentive compensation.

James Murdoch was third on the list, earning $50.2 million as CEO of 21st Century Fox Inc. in 2018, highlighted by $36.7 million in stock awards. Following the sale of myriad 21st Century assets to Disney, Fox Corp. emerged in March as a U.S.-centric entity focused on sports, news and entertainment through FOX (US) owned-TV stations and its cable portfolio, topped by cable news leader FOX News Channel (US). James Murdoch's brother Lachlan Murdoch, who was executive chairman at 21st Century, is now the CEO of Fox Corp.

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