Europe's top earner

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn topped the earnings list of European chief execs.
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn topped the earnings list of European chief execs. PHOTO: REUTERS

Volkswagen chief paid $22m last year, but luxury firm Richemont's co-CEOs catching up, says consultancy

ZURICH • Richemont co-chief executives Richard Lepeu and Bernard Fornas are catching up with carmaker Volkswagen's Mr Martin Winterkorn as the top-paid executives in Europe, according to a study by compensation consultancy HKP.

Mr Winterkorn, the top earner, was paid €14.9 million (S$22.3 million) at the German carmaker, while Mr Lepeu got €11.6 million and Mr Fornas €10 million at the Swiss luxury-goods maker, HKP said in a statement on its website. Its study is based on annual reports of companies listed on the Stoxx Europe 50 and Euro Stoxx 50 indexes.

Half of the 10 highest-paid CEOs were at Swiss firms, with Novartis' Mr Joseph Jimenez, UBS Group's Mr Sergio Ermotti and Roche Holding's Mr Severin Schwan ranking as Nos. 4, 6 and 9, respectively.

The study found that average compensation for chief executives in Europe rose 4 per cent to €5.8 million last year, the first increase after two years of declines.

The four best-paid chairmen in the study all worked at Swiss companies, led by Nestle's Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who got €5.93 million, HKP said, adding that it is because in Switzerland the chairman post is a full-time job and includes executive functions, unlike in other countries in Europe, where it's a more supervisory position.

Richemont's top three executives have taken pay cuts this financial year, company chairman Johann Rupert said on May 22.

The company, whose full name is Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, has frozen salaries of other employees in Switzerland to deal with this year's surge in the franc.

Nestle reduced Mr Brabeck's compensation by almost 10 per cent last year as he transferred some job responsibilities to chief executive Paul Bulcke, according to the company's annual report.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'Europe's top earner'. Print Edition | Subscribe