Summary of The CEO Pay Machine

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

The CEO Pay Machine book summary
Start getting smarter:
or see our plans


8 Overall

8 Importance

8 Innovation

8 Style


The salaries and compensation packages companies pay CEOs have rocketed in recent decades: Even mediocre CEOs commonly receive $100 million paydays. Steven Clifford offers an eloquent evisceration of executive pay, blaming a cabal of compensation consultants and cozy directors. He’s a former CEO who has served on a number of corporate boards, so he’s able to use clear language and even humor to explain the taxability of stock options and the manipulation of performance benchmarks. Clifford is also a painstaking reporter. However, while his suggestions for stopping the CEO pay machine are intriguing, his idea for a luxury tax on executive compensation higher than $6 million is probably a nonstarter under the Trump White House. getAbstract recommends this engaging analysis to analysts, strategists, budget-minded employees and shareholders seeking contrarian insight into executive pay trends.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why CEO pay has grown so dramatically;
  • Who rigs the executive compensation system; and
  • How compensation consultants, peer groups and media coverage boost pay.

About the Author

Harvard Business School alumnus Steven Clifford served as CEO of King Broadcasting for five years and National Mobile Television for nine years.



“Crazy and Corrupt”

For decades, CEO pay has soared, defying economic gravity. Inflation-adjusted executive compensation increased 10-fold from 1979 to 2014 according to the Economic Policy Institute. During that timeframe, a typical worker’s inflation-adjusted pay inched up from $48,000 to $53,200. Overall, “CEO pay has grown 90 times faster than the pay of a typical worker.” In 1978, the typical CEO made just 26 times as much as an average worker. By 2014, that ratio had jumped to at least 300 times and perhaps 700 times, depending on which CEO database you use. In 2015, at S&P 500 companies where the CEO had been in place for at least two years, average pay was $12.6 million. Some CEOs rake in pay packages worth north of $100 million.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category