A study by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) released on Tuesday identified the top 10 high-paid chief executives in the country. Number one on the list is BHP Billiton Chief Executive Marius Kloppers who earned $11.8 million in 2011 in wages alone.
Counting his share options yielded a total of $17.3 million for the BHP executive.
He was followed by Mike Smith, chief executive of ANZ Bank, who earned $10 million in wages or $14.7 million, including share options.
The combined earnings of the top 10 totaled almost $90 million. The only female on the list at fifth place is Gail Kelly, chief executive of Westpac who earned a total of $8.6 million in wages and share options.
However, one executive not in the top 10 list actually received almost $170 million due to the soaring share prices of the mining firm he founded and chairs. He is Tony Poli, the chief executive of Aquila Resources whose yearly pay is paltry compared to those in the top 10 list at $572,000. But his total compensation package was $169.9 million due to share options he got in 2005 which rose to almost 14 times their original value in 2011.
While the amount of their compensation would be the envy of ordinary wage earners even as executive pay continues to rise, the rate of growth has slowed down due to lower bonuses to meet shareholder expectations. The average bonus in 2011 went down to $1.25 million which is the lowest level since 2004, the report said.
The largest bonus of $3.3 million went to outgoing Commonwealth Bank Chief Executive Ralph Norris who was third on the list.
Others on the list and their total pay packets are: Terry Davis of Coca-Cola Amatil ($8.9 million) 4th place, Tom Albanese of Rio Tinto ($6.6 million) 6th place, Nick Moore of Macquarie Bank ($6.2 million) 7th place, Cameron Clyne of National Australia Bank ($5.6 million) 8th place, Louis Gries of James Hardie ($5.2 million) 9th place and Rowen Craigie of Crown ($3.6 million) 10th place.
The wages, despite being in millions, are indicators of austerity hitting the executive offices.
"I think there is a mood for change on executive pay. In the market conditions, it is clear that board have been listening to investor views," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted ACSI Chief Executive Ann Byrne.
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