$26 Million AT&T CEO Pay for 2023 Outpaces Telco Peers

AT&T and Verizon shareholders both approved executive compensation plans on Thursday.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

May 17, 2024

4 Min Read
AT&T CEO pay

AT&T CEO John Stankey's $26 million in total compensation for the previous year surpasses his contemporaries at Verizon and T-Mobile after a committee adjusted his long-term target compensation by $3 million.

AT&T shareholders at its annual meeting Thursday gave non-binding approval to an updated compensation plan for Stankey, who has led the carrier since 2020.


The company shared a market analysis of several other telecom providers and tech companies and concluded that Stankey's total target compensation of $21.5 million that he agreed to in 2020 "was falling behind that of market peers." The committee reviewing his pay boosted his long-term target as well as that of other executive officers at the corporation.

Measuring Verizon, T-Mobile AT&T CEO Pay

Stankey earned a base salary of $2.4 million, which has not changed in the past few years. But an increased amount of stock awards totaling $16.5 million and earning a $6.4 million short-term incentive helped him reach a total of $26,450,157 for the year.

AT&T's C-suite all all received a 115% payout for their short-term incentives. AT&T's short-term incentives were weighted 80% around adjusted operating income and 20% around free cash flow.

On the same day, Verizon shareholders signaled approval for their executives' compensation plans. CEO Hans Vestberg and his team of executives snagged a 109% payout on their short-term plan awards. That equated to $4,087,500 for Vestberg who maintains a long-term plan goal valued at $18 million, paid out in stock.

Related:Verizon, AT&T Earnings Show Diverging Fixed Wireless Strategies

Those numbers plus a base salary of $1.5 million and additional compensation brought the Verizon CEO's total compensation to $24,129,317 for 2023.

In the meantime, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and his magenta crew got a 146% on their short-term goal, which gives him $6,387,500. That plus a $1.75 million base salary and a long-term plan goal of $18.5 million helped him get to $24,625,000 in total direct compensation.


According to the proxy statement prepared by AT&T in advance of the meeting, the median employee at AT&T earns $137,176 per year. That's 193 times less than that of Stankey's total compensation.


T-Mobile found its median employee compensation to be $72,004, which makes for a CEO pay ratio of 521 to 1.

Verizon boasts the highest median employee compensation at $167,334. Taking out of consideration pension benefits, Verizon calculates the CEO pay ratio at 168 to 1.

While Stankey is out-earning his peers at companies with a mobile network operator business, CEOs at other connectivity-focused vendors are also raking in the big bucks.

Charter Communications CEO Chris Winfrey, for example, tallied $89 million in 2023 due to a generous $75 million in option awards.

Variable Pay

The executive compensation methodologies from these telecommunications providers shed an important light on how they are incentivizing their executives to approach the market.

Long-term and short-term incentives make up the majority of C-suite compensation, dwarfing their base salaries.

AT&T CEO John Stankey's target compensation, for example, derived 90% from incentives. Specifically, 67% of Stankey's target pay comes from long-term goals, which are based on "performance attainment and common stock price performance."

The short-term incentives that comprise 23% of Stankey's compensation are predominantly based on adjusted operating income (60%), free cash flow (20%) and strategic measures often associated with environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.


Vestberg sees a similar spread at Verizon, with 75% of his pay coming from long-term incentives and 15% coming from short-term incentives. However, his short-term pay appears to have a more balanced spread between adjusted operating income (22.5%), service and other revenue (45%), cash flow from operations (22.5%) and diversity and sustainability (10%).


Stock Ownership

In addition, proxy statements from all three companies show the key investors they hold in common.

Investing giants BlackRock (7.5%) and The Vanguard Group (8.7%) currently own the most common stock in AT&T. Quite similarly, Vanguard and BlackRock both own 8.3% of Verizon common stock. While the "beneficial owners" of T-Mobile are Deutsche Telekom (57.9%) and SoftBank Group (7.8%), BlackRock and Vanguard still own 3.1% and 3.8%, respectively.

Lead-Sheathed Cables

In other agenda items, Verizon shareholders shot down a motion to conduct "comprehensive independent study" into the impact and liabilities surrounding reports of lead-sheathed cables that have been degrading underwater. The Verizon board urged shareholders to vote against such a study, saying it would be duplicative.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like