Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo was paid more than counterparts at Deutsche Telekom, BT and Vodafone in the last financial year and is likely the seventh highest paid telecom CEO in the world, a CommsDay survey has found.

Despite comments from Telstra chairman Donald McGauchie that Trujillo’s controversial compensation package is in line with similar sized companies, we have found that he is paid considerably more than CEOs at similar sized and larger telcos around in Europe and Asia. But he is placed at the lower end of a typical North American telco CEO salary.

Trujillo is the seventh highest compensated CEO in the sample, while Telstra is the 11th most valuable telco. But while is he clearly in the top half of global pay scales, his salary, when compared to his employer’s market capitalisation is nowhere near the proportionate level of Sprint Nextel’s Gary Forsee, Telus Canada’s Darren Entwhistle or for that matter, Telecom NZ’s Theresa Gattung. 

What is remarkable about our findings is the obvious lack of global market consensus on what a CEO is worth. CEOs at ethnic Chinese telcos such as Chunghwa and China Telecom are paid salaries that would insult middle-ranking managers at some Western telcos. China Telecom boss J Wang is paid just US$46,000 a year, less than the $53,000 that AT&T boss Ed Whitcare makes in one day.

The compensation figures also include proceeds from exercised share options—specifically the major reason why Sprint Nextel’s Forsee ranks so high in the list. The list provides a representative sample of the most valuable telcos across North America, Europe and Asia, and demonstrates clearly that telcos with partial or total government ownership tend to pay below-market rates for CEOs. All figures are for the last financial years in each telco’s respective legal domiciles and, thus, have up to a six month variance.

We compiled primarily figures from Capital IQ, a unit of Standard and Poor’s and Forbes. Where there were differences in the data, we took the higher figure so as not to understate compensation levels.

Peter Fray

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