In 2003, no-one would have begrudged AMP chief Andrew Mohl the $5 million-plus he was paid for pulling the venerable insurer and funds manager out of near collapse.

A year later, after the de-merger of the troubled UK businesses and with a stronger stockmarket, hey presto. AMP is climbing, the share price was off and running on more takeover rumours, the money’s rolling in to the point where the company is now paying shareholders a 40c a share capital return.

Nice work Andy – but is it worth a Top Ten place in the ranks of our most highly paid CEOs in 2003-2004? For that’s where he’s placed after the $6.2 million he received last year in base pay, super and incentives.

His base pay actually fell from $1.5 million to $1.35 million as his salary was cut to take account of the spin-off of the UK businesses. More than 70% of his salary was based on incentives – but you have to ask, how much money is enough?

Around $1.5 million was from the “retention” bonus pool set up at the time of the de-merger of the UK businesses. There was no need for that freebie to be paid last year. Mohl wasn’t going anywhere else, was he?

Looking at the Crikey list of the top paid CEOs , Mohl slots in just before Geoff Dixon of Qantas, who’s had a tough battle against Virgin Bluu, high oil prices, Sars and terrorism over the past few years.

If you remove Murdoch and Chernin from the list because News Corp is now American, and take out Frank Cicutto of NAB, Michael Chaney of Wesfarmers and Peter Yates of PBL (all of whom have left or retired), Mohl is actually a Top Five finisher in the CEO pay stakes.

With another two and a half years on his contract to go, Mohl could earn another $12 to $15 million if the markets remain kind.

But looking at the increased volatility in the first quarter, which ended yesterday with a 140 point fall from before Easter to Wednesday, you’d have to say that the pay of a funds manager will be – or rather, should be – at risk in coming months.

Peter Fray

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