And it could rise again soon.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson took a pay cut last year at the behest of shareholders, and we finally know by about how much: a whopping $20 million. But, as with most executive pay scenarios, the intricacies of Wilson’s pay are not quite that simple.
In the previous year, 2021, Wilson earned $39.2 million between his base salary of $1.25 million and a bundle of various stock awards, grants, and other types of extra compensation that are typical for top executives. But the EA board of directors was under pressure to reform those numbers. A 2020 “say on pay” vote by shareholders had indicated that only 26% of the company’s shareholders were happy with the current pay schemes, after similar votes in previous years had indicated overwhelming support for executive pay.
The wave of displeasure was at least partially instigated by CtW Investment Group, an organization that over the years has taken a number of companies to task over high executive pay, including EA and Activision Blizzard. The organization accused EA of “developing a special award grant addiction,” noting how much of Wilson’s compensation was based on massive bonuses. And indeed the following year, a $30 million stock grant was awarded to Wilson in 2021 to help “retain and motivate” him.
While the shareholder ‘say on pay’ votes are non-binding, they do take the temperature of the shareholders, and upsetting an overwhelming number of them is sure to have consequences. So for 2022, EA opted to skip a number of Wilson’s usual major bonuses. While his base salary technically increased from $1.25 million to $1.3 million, absent certain bonuses, he earned $19.9 million total in fiscal 2022, a nearly $20 million drop from 2021, according to EA’s filing.
We don’t know yet what Wilson will make in the current fiscal year, which for EA began in April of this year. The company will hold another vote this year in August, which will allow its shareholders to express their satisfaction, or not, with how it’s reformed its pay structure. And it has reiterated its commitment not to grant any special equity awards to executive officers through 2026, though there are still plenty of other ways for top brass to receive significant salaries. For instance, he received a $30 million stock grant in 2021, and an $18 million this past year, both of which made up the bulk of his pay each year and could be increased again in future years.
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A report earlier this year compared gaming executive compensation back in 2020, at which time Playtika CEO Robert Antokol was the highest-earning CEO at $372 million. Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick brought in $154.6 million that year, and Wilson made $34.7 million. For comparison, that same year EA median employee compensation was $123,935. Per its 2021 report, that median lowered last year to $115,569.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.