The Other Side of the CEO Compensation Story
In direct contrast to high CEO salaries and other benefits, is Warren Buffett, the investment legend. Buffett is a rare example of high efficiency and modest salary as a CEO, doing the job on a well documented $100,000 a year salary.
Buffett makes his money as an investor, as do the stockholders in his company, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), which has delivered an annual 22 percent return since he took control some forty years ago. The stock is worth over $99,800 a share as of this date.
A critic of high CEO pay and stock options, he once asked in Forbes, "If options aren't a form of compensation, what are they? If compensation isn't an expense, what is it? And if expenses shouldn't go into the calculation of earnings, where in the world should they go?"
He opposes President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and the repeal of the estate tax, saying, according to the Boston Globe, "I can think of nothing more counter to democracy than inherited wealth."
He also makes time for charitable acts. His 2001 car, sold on eBay, fetched $73,100 which goes to charity, according to Reuters. He choose a sensible Cadillac sedan as a replacement car, paying $41,990 for it, paying in cash. Another bid of $620,100 to have a lunch with Buffett in New York City, not at his favorite Omaha steak house, also went to a charity, the Glide Foundation.
In 2006, his reported gift of $37 billion, or 80 percent of his fortune, given in the form of company stock, is said to be the largest in U.S. history. As for the inheritance to his three children, Fortune reports his advice on the right amount of money to leave his heirs is, "enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing."
His frugal ways and business mind were shown at the early age of 13, when he filed his first tax return, listing his bicycle as a business expense, according to Forbes, and Berkshire Hathaway paid its one and only dividend of 10 cents a share in 1967. He still owns the same home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased for $31,500 in 1958. Except for the private jet, called "The Indefensible" in typical Buffett style, his views are clear on certain CEO perks and stock options he once called "Alice in Wonderland" stuff. Warren Buffett is an example of CEO success without the perks; a man who enjoys drinking Cokes and perhaps dining at the local Dairy Queen, both holdings of his Fortune 500 company. Certainly a leader worth more than his keep to his investors.
One would expect nothing less from a man who choose the word "Thrifty" for his license plate.