Nissan CEO Ghosn earns $10 millon, stays one of Japan's top-paid execs

Carlos Ghosn, pictured, is outearned by his peers at GM, Ford and VW.

TOKYO (Bloomberg) -- Nissan CEO 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.

Ghosn is also CEO of Renault, which last year paid him 2.3 million euros (about $3.13 million at current exchange rates).

Ghosn, 60, is among the few foreigners leading a Japanese company who earned more than four times what Toyota President Akio Toyoda did last year despite Ghosn running an automaker with about a fifth the profit.

Last year, Ghosn steered Nissan to the smallest profit increase among Japanese automakers aside from Daihatsu, 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 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’s pay

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.

The gap in compensation between Ghosn and Toyoda narrows if dividends are taken into consideration. Toyoda 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, a California-based executive-pay researcher. General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra, who started the job this year, may receive total compensation of $14.4 million, GM said in February.

In Europe, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was paid 15 million euros ($20 million) in 2013, while Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche received 8.25 million euros.

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