Nissan’s $10 Million CEO on Track to Top Japan Executive Pay

Jun 24, 2014 2:45 am ET

(Updates with Toyoda’s pay in sixth paragraph.)

June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn earned more than $10 million last year, putting him on track to become the best-paid Japan executive for the fourth time in five years.

Ghosn was paid a total of 995 million yen ($9.8 million) in salary and bonuses for the fiscal year ended March 31, an increase of 0.7 percent from a year earlier, he said at the carmaker’s annual shareholders’ meeting today in Yokohama, Japan. Including dividends, his total compensation rises to more than 1 billion yen.

The 60-year-old, among the few foreigners leading a Japanese company, earned more than four times what Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda did last year despite Ghosn running an automaker with about a fifth the profit. Last year, he steered Nissan to the smallest profit increase among Japanese automakers aside from Daihatsu Motor Co., hurt by increased U.S. incentive spending and recall costs.

“I understand the sensitivity of the issue,” Ghosn said. “Being in Japan should not be a handicap to attract talent. We need the best minds, we need the best talents.”

Ghosn, who’s also CEO of Renault SA, was the top-paid executive in Japan in three of the four years since 2010, when the country’s financial regulator began requiring disclosures by publicly traded companies of compensations exceeding 100 million yen, according to Tokyo Shoko Research.

Toyoda was paid 230 million yen in salary and bonuses for the 2013 financial year, while Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito received 150 million yen, according to the companies.

Toyoda’s Pay

The gap in compensation between Ghosn and Toyoda narrows if dividends are taken into consideration.

Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder, received about 757 million yen in the 2013 fiscal year from the carmaker that bears his family name. Ghosn, by comparison, collected about 93 million yen in dividends.

“Toyoda is a big shareholder, directly and indirectly,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp., which manages about $3 billion in assets.

Despite being the best-paid executive leading a Japanese company, Ghosn is outearned by his peers at American and European automakers.

The average compensation in 2013 for CEOs at comparable global automakers rose 5 percent to $17.2 million, Nissan said, citing an analysis of public data compiled by consulting firm Towers Watson.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally earned about $23 million in 2013, more than double Ghosn’s compensation,according to Equilar Inc., a Redwood City, California-based executive-pay researcher. General Motors Co. chief Mary Barra, who started the job this year, may receive total compensation of $14.4 million, the Detroit-based company said in February.

In Europe, Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn was paid 15 million euros ($20 million) in 2013, while Daimler AG’s Dieter Zetsche received 8.25 million euros. Renault paid about 2.3 million euros to Ghosn last year.

--With assistance from Mathieu Rosemain in Paris.