Everyone Gets Paid in CBS-Viacom Except Shareholders
Is it just me, or does the $100 million “severance” being paid to Joe Ianniello, the acting chief executive officer of CBS Corp., stink to high heaven? For starters, you can make a pretty compelling Elizabeth Warren-esque argument that handing a $100 million “severance” to someone who is not, in fact, leaving the company is exactly why income inequality has become such a hot-button issue.
But let’s be old school about this. Let’s focus on the shareholders and how this is their money that’s being handed to Ianniello. It is also an unpleasant reminder of how the father-daughter combo of Sumner and Shari Redstone seemingly can’t resist throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at executives who have not done much for their stockholders.
Which brings us back to Ianniello. Although he has been acting CEO only since Moonves departed late last year, Ianniello has also been the recipient of the Redstones’ largesse: Between 2016 and 2018, as the company’s chief operating officer, his compensation averaged $27 million a year, according to Bloomberg. The stock? It dropped from the low 70s to the mid-40s during those three years. This is what’s known as “pay for pulse.”
So why did Shari Redstone feel the need to hand Ianniello an additional $100 million? The reasons are twofold. First, Redstone is recombining Viacom and CBS. She doesn’t want Ianniello to leave — at least not right away — but she also isn’t going to make him the top dog. Second, for legal reasons, she can’t ramrod this deal through by herself, even though she is the controlling shareholder. She needs the CBS board and senior management to support the bid.
“You need Joe to get the merger done,” Robin Ferracone, the CEO of executive compensation consulting firm Farient Advisors, told Bloomberg. “So you need to make him indifferent to whether he’s going to lose his job or not.”
Yes, $100 million is certainly likely to buy a whole lot of indifference. Then again, $10 million probably could have achieved the same result. And in any case, if Shari Redstone needs $100 million to, er, persuade one of her executives to support her merger plan, maybe that suggests the merger’s success is not exactly a slam dunk.
Comments, observations and thoughts from two bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is an associate professor. Mark is a professional statistician and former math teacher.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
"Yes, $100 million is certainly likely to buy a whole lot of indifference."
That quote alone is worth the price of admission, but it's worth your time to read the rest of this latest example of the increasingly absurd world of executive compensation from the always reliable Joe Nocera.
Posted by Mark at 6:30 AM
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