How much should a billionaire pay himself and his children from a public company that he controls? It happens quite a bit in Australia, so here is the data from public companies with multiple billionaire family members on the payroll. 

Murdoch family: Rupert Murdoch was paid a record US$34.6 million as executive chairman of 21st Century Fox in 2015-16, while his two sons, James and Lachlan, received US$26.4 million and US$23.7 million respectively. Over at News Corp, Rupert Murdoch collected US$5.344 million as executive chairman, Lachlan Murdoch got US$989,748 as co-chairman, and James Murdoch was paid US$281,250 as a director. Total family payments at both companies were a record US$91.31 million, or $120.3 million measured in Australian dollars. 

Frank Lowy’s family: Frank was paid US$450,000 in 2016 to chair Westfield, while sons Peter and Steven Lowy were paid US$9.56 million and US$9.87 million respectively as co-chief executives. Steven also paid $205,000 as a director of Scentre Group, so total 2016 family salary payments were US$20 million, or $26.35 million measured in Australian dollars.

Wilson family: The family controls more than 70% of plumbing supplies business Reece. Executive chairman Alan Wilson was paid $1.473 million in 2015-16, his son and CEO Peter Wilson collected $3.99 millio, and Alan’s two brothers, Bruce and John, collected $82,125 and $81,938 respectively as non-executive directors, bringing total family salaries to $5.623 million.

Gerry Harvey’s family: Gerry was paid $1 million as executive chair of Harvey Norman. His wife, Katie Page, was paid $3.1 million as CEO, and Gerry’s son Michael Harvey was paid $60,000 as a non-executive director, bringing total family salaries to $4.17 million.

Kerry Stokes’ family: Kerry was paid $347,510 to chair Seven West Media and a further $389,624 to chair Seven Group Holdings in 2015-16. His son Ryan Stokes was paid $2.272 million as CEO of Seven Group Holdings, bringing total family salaries to $3.01 million.

Clearly, when it comes to extravagance, it is the Murdochs first and daylight second. However, Murdoch salary figures haven’t just been astronomical in 2015-16. Here is all the data of salaries paid to Murdoch men over the past 18 years.

2015-16 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch: US$34.6 million
James Murdoch: US$26.4 million
Lachlan Murdoch: US$23.7 million

2015-16 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$5.344 million
Lachlan Murdoch: US$989,748
James Murdoch: US$281,250

2014-15 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch: US$27.9m
James Murdoch US$15.05m

2014-15 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$5.1 million

2013-14 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch: US$29.25 million
James Murdoch: US$18.7 million

2013-14 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch US$8.7 million
Lachlan Murdoch: US$2.08m

2012-13 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch: US$28.9 million 
James Murdoch: US$17 million

2011-12 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$30 million
James Murdoch: US$16.84 million

2010-11 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$33.3 million
James Murdoch: US$11.9 million

2009-10 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$22.72 million
James Murdoch: US$10.3 million

2008-09 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$19.88 million
James Murdoch: US$9.2 million

2007-08 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$27.55 million
James Murdoch: US$10.97 million

2006-07 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$32.14 million

2005-06 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$25.9 million

2004-05 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$23.64 million
Lachlan Murdoch: US$7.97 million

2003-04 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$20.65 million
James and Lachlan Murdoch received combined US$5.8 million

2002-03 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$14.1 million
James and Lachlan Murdoch received combined US$5.2 million

2001-02 News Corp 

Rupert Murdoch: US$9.21 million
James and Lachlan Murdoch received combined US$4.48 million

2000-01 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$7.58 million
James and Lachlan Murdoch received combined US$5.66 million

1999-2000 News Corp 

Rupert Murdoch: US$6.53 million
Lachlan Murdoch: US$3.14 million

1998-99 News Corp

Rupert Murdoch: US$6.34 million

All up, that comes to more than US$600 million in reported salaries over 18 years. Converted to 2017 figures and Australian dollars, and the Murdochs would appear to be the first family in the history of public companies to extract more than $1 billion in salaries from listed entities.

Throw in shareholdings worth close to $10 billion and these ongoing exorbitant salaries are clearly impossible to justify and only continue because of the family gerrymander, which gives the Murdochs 40% of the votes even though they only own about 13% of the total shares on issue at both News Corp and 21st Century Fox.

After a record remuneration protest at the 2016 21st Century Fox AGM, surely the next set of pay figures to be released later this year will show a reduction from the staggering peak of $120.3 million in 2015-16.

Peter Fray

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