Companies rein in flashy perks, find other rewards for CEOs

Fri Apr 4, 2014 4:22am EDT
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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) - For some executives, corporate perks are getting just a little less exciting.

A number of major U.S. companies are cutting back on glamorous luxuries like personal jet use, country-club memberships, and luxury rentals, recent corporate filings show. Often the shifts follow pressure from shareholders, who in recent years have criticized soaring executive pay and over-the-top perks.

But it doesn't mean that the "extras" package that comes with a C-suite job is in decline - in many cases the surging value of more mundane freebies like financial planning assistance or life insurance is more than making up the difference.

"Companies are really digging in on identifying what areas it makes sense to focus their benefits programs," said Robert Newbury, director at pay consulting firm Towers Watson. "You will see companies spend less on areas that raise red flags with investors."

Take for instance casino mogul Steve Wynn. He began paying out of his own pocket in November for his Las Vegas luxury villa after years during which his company Wynn Resorts Ltd took care of the bill - which was more than $450,000 a year.

"The new treatment of Mr. Wynn's villa is part of an overall change of executive compensation to ensure the company is aligned with best-in-market compensation practices," Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver said.

At the same time, Wynn - who in December was featured on a "Truly Outrageous CEO Perks" list produced by the financial news service 24/7 Wall St because of the villa freebie - saw a company contribution to his insurance and benefits nearly double to $33,293 in 2013 from $18,125 in 2012.

And he got "merchandise discounts" of $56,196, more than double the $23,057 he received in 2012. The filing did not give more details about what these discounts were for and Weaver declined to comment.   Continued...

U.S. casino magnate Steve Wynn, head of Wynn Resorts Ltd and Wynn Macau Ltd, introduces the company's latest casino resort during a news conference in Macau June 5, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip