Ray Irani gets too much money, according to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and an activist investor group. Last week the two said they’d fight to get their own slate of directors on the board of Irani’s employer, Occidental Petroleum Corp. of Westwood.
Irani certainly hauls a bundle. Last year, he made off with $31.4 million in salary, bonuses and stock awards. If you throw in the value of past options he exercised during the year and stock grants that vested, he got close to $128 million.
But is that too much? Let’s compare:
• Robert Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Co., which is over the hill from Irani’s Oxy, got $29.8 million in salary, bonuses and the like. In nearby Glendale, DreamWorks Animation’s chief, Jeffrey Katzenberg, got $23.4 million. Both got less than Irani’s $31.4 million but both run smaller companies.
• Dodger Manny Ramirez got a salary of nearly $24 million last year. That figures out to $234,000 per hit. (Let’s not even talk about this year.) By the way, Ramirez, 38, has made $205 million over his career.
• Artist Alberto Giacometti’s elongated sculpture called “Walking Man I” sold in February for more than $104 million. (That nice price may have taken the sting out of the sale of Giacometti’s bust of his brother, which sold for a mere $53 million.)
• Of course, Hollywood types need wheelbarrows for their pay, too. Producer and director Michael Bay made $125 million last year, according to Vanity Fair. Even actor Ben Stiller made more than Irani last year. He got $40 million, thanks largely to the upcoming flick “Little Fockers.” Sure to be a classic.
• According to Forbes, Oprah Winfrey last year earned $315 million. That comes out to $1 million a day if you don’t count Sundays. (And it figures out to 10 times what Irani made in salary and bonus.)
• Singers don’t do badly, either. Beyonce Knowles made $87 million last year, again according to Forbes. That kind of money must have put a poker face on Lady Gaga. She only made $62 million, twice as much as Irani.
I used these people as examples because each one, in his or her own industry, is a star. Even Ben Stiller. And like it or not, they get star pay.
Of course, Oxy’s argument is that Irani is a star. Like it or not, he gets star pay.
To me, asking whether Irani gets “too much” is the wrong question. The right question is this: Is Irani really a star?
Well, an article in the Wall Street Journal last week compared Oxy to its peers. It pointed out that in the decade of the 2000s (Dec. 31, 1999 through Dec. 31, 2009), Exxon Mobil gave shareholders a total return, which includes dividends, of 110 percent. Conoco Phillips shareholders enjoyed a total return of 185 percent. Oxy shareholders? 873 percent.
Let’s look at the more turbulent recent times. According to my calculations, in the last three years (June 30, 2007 through June 30, 2010), Oxy’s value as measured by its market capitalization has increased by $15 billion, or 32 percent. Stockholders? They’ve gained more than 40 percent.
Oh, how did CalSTRS, the teachers retirement fund, do over that span? Looks like its portfolio lost close to 15 percent of its value.
Maybe CalSTRS should have bought Oxy stock.