Former CBS Chief Joe Ianniello’s 2019 Compensation Tops $125 Million

Cynthia Littleton

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Former CBS Corp. chief Joe Ianniello took in a total of $125.4 million in compensation and severance payments from ViacomCBS last year.

Ianniello’s total compensation was revealed Friday in ViacomCBS’ annual proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ianniello received $2.8 million in salary and $84.7 million in severance payments that were stipulated years before in an employment contract that promised him a windfall if he was not promoted to serve as CEO of the entire company.

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The longtime CBS executive’s haul included stock awards valued at $37.4 million. Ianniello exited the company at the end of January following the merger of Viacom and CBS Corp. in December.

The proxy filing also disclosed that ViacomCBS president-CEO Bob Bakish received a total of about $36.6 million in compensation last year, including salary of $3.1 million and a bonus of $12.4 million.

The windfall for Ianniello is sure to spur outrage among activists and shareholder advocacy groups that have long railed against the ballooning compensation packages for top executives. Pressure for corporate boards to rein in executive pay packages is likely to increase amid the widespread economic devastation caused by coronavirus-related shutdowns and aggressive social distancing measures.

Ianniello’s situation was unusual in that he was granted generous contract terms under his previous boss, longtime CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, as a retention incentive. Moonves was ousted in September 2018 after sexual misconduct allegations from the past surfaced.

Ianniello was named acting CEO at the time. But the fact that he was not given the permanent post after it became clear that Viacom and CBS would consummate their long-awaited merger triggered a provision in Ianniello’s contract that called for him to earn a huge lump sum in the event that Moonves left the company and was not chosen as his successor. In 2018, Ianniello’s total compensation was valued at $27.4 million, including a bonus of $12.3 million and $2.5 million in salary.

Ianniello spent more than 20 years at CBS and Viacom, rising through the ranks on the business side to the post of president and chief operating officer. He is credited with plotting the business strategy that helped turbo-charge CBS’ earnings and stock price following the company’s separation from Viacom in 2006, which took place six years after the companies were initially brought together by media mogul Sumner Redstone.

According to the proxy filing, Christina Spade, ViacomCBS executive VP and chief financial officer, was No. 2 to Bakish on the pay scale for current corporate officers with compensation valued at $9.4 million. The CBS alum earned $1.3 million in salary, a $2.5 million bonus and $4.9 million in stock awards.

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