Executive pay at Shaw Communications Inc. jumped last year thanks in part to higher bonuses for CEO Bradley Shaw and other top leaders.
Mr. Shaw’s total compensation was just under $12-million, up from $7.6-million in the prior year. Part of the increase came from a boost in his bonuses to nearly $6-million from just under $3.9-million in 2018. President Jay Mehr saw his total pay increase to just under $9.2-million last year, from $7.2-million a year earlier, aided by a nearly $1-million boost in his annual bonus, which rose to a little more than $3.2-million.
Shaw also made a tweak in financial assumptions for its legacy executive pension plan that added $53-million to its estimated costs to finance the plan, including more than $22-million in additional funding for Mr. Shaw. It now estimates the cost of funding pensions for 15 current and former executives at nearly $500-million.
Shaw disclosed the figures in its management information circular, a document sent to shareholders in advance of the company’s annual general meeting, to be held Tuesday in Calgary.
Shaw has long had robust executive compensation for its executives, led by founder JR Shaw, who remains executive chairman; Bradley Shaw; and Bradley’s late brother Jim, who previously served as CEO. Their annual compensation formed the basis for lucrative pensions awarded under the company’s Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SERP).
JR Shaw, Bradley Shaw and a family trust own more than $800-million of Shaw’s Class A and Class B shares, based on Friday’s closing price of $26.50 for Shaw Class B shares. The Shaw family controls the company via the voting Class A stock; the B shares carry no votes on most matters.
Shaw’s fiscal 2019 net income jumped to $733-million from $33-million in the prior year, when profits were crushed by restructuring charges.
The company’s shares rose 0.6 per cent over the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2019, while the S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 1.1 per cent over the same 12-month period.
In 2018, the Shaw circular says, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Mehr voluntarily reduced their bonuses in order to allow other employees, across the company, to have bigger bonuses.
For 2019, the company said 90 per cent of Mr. Shaw’s bonus, and 60 per cent of Mr. Mehr’s, are based on achieving undisclosed goals for “operating income before restructuring cost and amortization.” Shaw paid 98 per cent of the target bonus to Mr. Shaw and Mr. Mehr in 2019, it said.
Shaw started its SERP pension plan in 2001 but closed it to new members in 2012 when it racked up $378-million in unfunded obligations in just over a decade. The company gradually pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the plan to bring it to full funding. JR Shaw, Bradley Shaw and and Mr. Mehr are members of SERP.
To figure out the present value of future payments, they must be discounted to today’s dollars using an interest rate. The lower the interest rate, the bigger the present-day value. And in fiscal 2019, Shaw cut the discount rate from 3.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent, which required the company to set aside more money to fund the executive pension plan.
The company says the total impact of financial-assumption changes – which include the interest rate – added $53-million to the plan’s obligations. At the end of August, Shaw estimated its pension liability was $478-million, including $118.5-million to Bradley Shaw, $62.5-million to JR Shaw and $42.3-million to Mr. Mehr.
The company had $417-million in assets in the plan, which was $61-million short of full funding.