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Time Warner chairman-CEO Jeff Bewkes received a windfall of stock awards in 2017, pushing his total compensation for the year to $49 million.
Bewkes’ 2017 haul marks a 50% increase from the $32.6 million he took home in 2016. The bulk of that increase came from $32 million in stock awards. Those awards were higher last year for Bewkes and other top executives as a means of providing retention bonuses. Bewkes and others will not receive any such stock awards for 2018 as a result.
Last year marked a period of transition for the media giant as it expected to complete the $85.4 billion merger agreement with AT&T reached in October 2016. But the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the transaction on anti-trust grounds threw a wrench in those plans. The trial in Washington, D.C., which included testimony from Bewkes and his AT&T counterpart, Randall Stephenson, is expected to wrap up early next month.
Bewkes earned $2 million in salary and $14.7 million in bonuses for 2017, a year in which Time Warner’s fundamentals remained strong especially relative to its media peers. The company’s first quarter earnings report and 2018 outlook issued Thursday was strong enough to prompt prominent media analyst Michael Nathanson to question whether Time Warner should reconsider the merger plan with AT&T.
“We think given the decline in (AT&T) stock, Time Warner is actually more valuable as a standalone company,” Nathanson wrote on Thursday. He posited that a Time Warner suitor would have to pay as much as $15 more per share for Time Warner than is called for in the AT&T sale agreement reached 18 months ago. Time Warner shares on Thursday closed at $93.67.
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