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David Zaslav’s 2023 Pay Was Almost $50 Million

This ought to go over just fine on Twitter/X. Warner Bros. Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav’s executive compensation for 2023 was $49.7 million, according to a new filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Here’s how the near-$50-million haul breaks down: Zaslav’s salary actually dipped a hair from 2022 to $3 million, his stock awards practically doubled to $23.1 million, and his non-equity incentive plan compensation (his bonus, basically) stayed pretty steady at $22 million. Along with $1.6 million in the “other” category — pocket change, really — Zaslav’s 2023 compensation package was about 27 percent larger than his 2022 pay of $39.3 million.

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Zaslav’s Discovery, Inc. merged with AT&T’s WarnerMedia on April 8, 2022. With a crazy options package revealed ahead of the closure, Zaslav’s estimated executive compensation for 2021 was $246.6 million — nearly $203 million of that from options. But here’s the rub: Options awards are not guaranteed, rather they are tied to the company’s stock price. If shares hit an assigned strike price, the options holder will make big — or even huge — bucks. But if shares don’t make the goals set forward by the board of directors, the holder of the options may not see a dime.

And boy has WBD’s stock gone down, down, down: Shares are presently valued at one-third of what they were when the newly created company launched. They’re a third of what Discovery alone traded for at the very end.

Zaslav’s 2020 compensation was $37.7 million.

Yes, it’s a good job if you can get it. And if you can deal with being under the microscope — that, like the money, comes with the territory.

Zaslav has been the Hollywood creative community’s Public Enemy no. 1 since he added the storied Warner Bros. studio to his oversight. (OK, so maybe AI is no. 1 — Zaslav is almost certainly no. 2.)

He killed the (pretty much) completed “Batgirl” in fall 2022, and for an encore, did the same to “Coyote vs. Acme” one year later. (Though that one is not yet officially-officially dead — not yet at least.)

The headline-making hit jobs were done for their tax benefits (and in the case of “Batgirl,” possibly to salvage whatever shine DC still has left). The first order of business for Zaslav and his CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels has been to reduce the $56.5 billion debt pile the April 2022 merger came with. They’ve done a nice job thus far (though haven’t been nice doing it), and WBD’s gross debt currently sits at $44.2 billion.

Wiedenfels, by the way, made $17.1 million in 2023.

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