What Do CEOs Really Earn In America? It Isn’t Musk Money, That’s For Sure


Much of the data reported about large public company CEOs emphasizes the equity portion of their comp plan. Our data shows unlike their public company counterparts, the median private company CEO does not typically receive new equity grants each year.

While it may be obvious why CEOs did not receive new grants in 2020—many, in fact, took cuts to their compensation that year to help weather the Covid storm—a look back at 2018, during a robust economy, median private company CEOs did not, then, report any new grants either.

Nevertheless, Chief Executive’s 2021-22 report shows that the median CEO does own approximately 10 percent of their company’s equity, for a value of $1.4 million. While that’s a sizable interest, the challenge for private companies is determining the appreciation of this equity stake. Unlike public companies, most private companies do not value themselves annually.

And even when the data is available, it is highly correlated to various factors, particularly company size. For instance, the median increase in equity value in 2020 for CEOs of companies with $5 to $9.9 million was less than $40,000. At the other end of the scale, the median CEO at companies with $1 billion + in revenues reported a $735,000 increase in their equity value in 2020.

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