These six CEOs are Australia’s highest-earning – here’s why

As CEO of the world's largest mining company, Mike Henry was the fourth highest paid CEO in Australia in 2022
While CEO pay in Australia has dropped from record highs in 2021, bosses are still paid on average US$5.2 million, a new Acsi report finds

The chief executives of Australia’s largest publicly listed companies have taken a financial hit with their average take-home pay falling to its lowest in nine years.

That’s according to a new report from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (Acsi), which revealed the pay of 100 largest listed firms in 2022.

But while research from Acsi shows CEO pay dropped from post-pandemic record highs in 2021 amid more difficult economic conditions and a tougher boardroom approach to pay, CEOs are still paid on average US$5.2 million per year, 55 times more than a typical worker.

The report revealed how almost all executive pay is boosted by bonuses, many of which require the CEO to meet and exceed performance targets.

Some companies like Macquairie have profit share arrangements, which rewards executive when the company does well.

Some bonus arrangements have been a cause for concern among investors and shareholders, however.

Among the top 10 highest-paid CEOs in Australia in 2022, three have since retired, including Paul Perreault, the former boss of CSL, the fifth largest biotech in the world; Andrew Penn, the former CEO of Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company; and Sandeep Biswas, the former CEO of Newcrest Mining.

His retirement in December last year followed open investor discontent over the mining company’s remuneration report, and especially the CEO’s pay.

Securing A$14,000 in 2022 as the boss of CSL, the fifth largest biotech in the world, Paul Perreault retired in March this year; while the sixth-highest paid CEO in 2022, Telstra’s Andrew Penn stepped down after serving more than seven years as boss of Australia’s telecommunications company.

Here, we take a deep dive into six highest-paid CEOs in Australia and discover just how they’ve earned their bonus dollars.

Top 10 highest-earning CEOs in 2022 in Australia / Acsi

1

Shemara Wikramanayake

CEO, Macquarie Group

A$23.7 million 

The first woman to top the reported earnings table for successive years, Shemara Wikramanayake earned $16 million in 2021 and then $23.7 million in 2022.

Despite being the highest paid CEO in Australia, she is not the highest-paid executive. That prize goes to her colleague, Macquarie’s Nick O’Kane who is the country’s top executive earner after banking A$57.6 million last year.

Shemara is also the bank’s first chief executive to be regularly paid less than her subordinates and, based on profits, is the lowest-paid since at least 1999.

Macquarie Group's CEO Shemara Wikramanayake is the first woman to top the reported earnings table for successive years

Her large payout is in part in thanks to the Macquarie Group’s profit share arrangement, which richly rewards executives when the company has does well.

And the listed financial group did do well in 2022, securing net profit of A$4,706 million, 56% up on the year before.

Founded in 1969, Macquarie provides clients with asset management, banking, leasing, advisory and risk and capital solutions. The Sydney-headquartered firm employs more than 18,000 people and has offices in 33 markets globally and A$871 billion assets under management.

Driving the financial group’s success since 2018, Shemara has a three-decade-long career at Macquarie Group, most recently serving as Head of Macquarie Asset Management before taking the CEO role in 2018.

Since joining Macquarie Capital in Sydney in 1987, aged 25, she has worked in six countries and across various business lines, establishing and leading Macquarie’s corporate advisory offices in New Zealand, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and pushing the emerging asset management division of the business to become the bank’s most profitable venture.

Shemara, who is UK-born and of Sri Lankan descent, is the first Asian-Australian woman to head an ASX 200 company and has been instrumental in driving diversity at Macquarie, where at least half of female employees identify as coming from a culturally diverse background, while globally, more than a third of Macquarie female directors identified as ethnically diverse.

Despite this, the firm remains male-dominated, with less than 30% of the senior management ranks female.

2

Gregory Goodman

CEO, Goodman Group

A$15.7 million 

As co-founder and CEO of Australia’s largest listed landlord, Greg Goodman secured 2022 pay of A$15.7 million

As co-founder and CEO of Australia’s largest listed landlord, Greg Goodman is the second highest-paid on the list raking in more than A$15.7 million in 2022.

However, in reality, billionaire Greg comes out as the highest-paid Australia-based chief if using the ‘realised pay’ metric, which includes company equity that may have been claimed. With this metric, he earned A$44.3m in 2022.  

As the country’s most valuable real estate investment trust, which owns, develops, and manages industrial and business property, the Group achieved revenue of A$1.40 billion in 2022, up on 2021.

Greg has more than three decades of experience in the property industry, and as co-founder of the Group in 1989, was instrumental in establishing its specialist global position in the property market through various corporate transactions, including takeovers, mergers and acquisitions.

As CEO, he is responsible for the Sydney-headquartered group’s operations and implementation of its strategic plan and has led the Group to Forbes’ Global 2000 distinction and a valuation of A$38.66 billion.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Greg though, who was hit by the financial crisis in 2009. Since then, he has built Goodman back up and into an industrial property powerhouse, which has restored him to billionaire status too.

3

Mike Henry

CEO, BHP Group

A$10.4 million

Mike Henry has led Australia's largest company for 20 years

As the CEO leading Australia’s biggest company by market value (A$233.94 billion) and the world’s largest mining company, it is of little surprise to see Mike Henry in the top 10 highest paid.

Under his leadership, since 2020, the company has witnessed significant growth and success in recent years, including major mergers like BHP’s petroleum division merged with Woodside in a US$40 billion deal.

Canadian-born Mike has focused on improving operational performance while also returning substantial and consistent cash returns to shareholders and achievement that has resulted in increased shareholder satisfaction.

With more than 30 years of experience in the global mining and petroleum industries, Mike joined the 155-year-old miner in 2003 and has held senior leadership roles spanning operational, commercial and technical before being appointed CEO in January 2020.

His exposure to the company’s global marketing efforts prior to 2003 saw him earmarked for the top job at BHP.

4

Kevin Gallagher

CEO, Santos

A$8.7 million

CEO Kevin Gallagher's strong leadership has seen him generously compensated

Energy companies globally are seeing their profits surge, and Santos is no different, with the Adelaide-based gas producer reporting a more than doubling of profits in 2022 to A$2.46 billion. This was largely thanks to the company’s merger with Oil Search, boosting its annual output 12%.

The company’s strong performance is largely thanks to its leadership, for which CEO Kevin Gallagher has been generously recognised with pay in 2022 of A$8.7 million. 

Pay for executives at Santos have not been without controversy. When Santos awarded Gallagher a A$6 million bonus in 2021 to keep him at the company for another five years, amid reports he could be in line for a top job at rival Woodside Petroleum, more than a quarter of shareholders voted against the company’s pay plans.

Under Gallagher’s leadership, since 2016, Santos has become Australia’s second-largest independent natural gas and liquids producer after

Gallagher has led significant transformation and growth of the company, implementing a focused strategy and low-cost- operating model, and led successful acquisitions including Quadrant Energy and ConocoPhillips’ Australia-West business, as well as the merger with Oil Search.

He has also positioned Santos to leverage the critical role natural gas will play in delivering energy security through the transition to net-zero emissions. Santos made the world’s first booking of carbon storage reserves and took a final investment decision one of the world’s biggest CCS projects in South Australia’s Cooper Basin.

With more than 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, Kevin began his career in Scotland before relocating to Australia and joining Woodside in 1998. Among his previous senior positions, Kevin served as CEO at Clough.

5

David Harrison

CEO, Charter Hall Group

A$8.5 million

Charter Hall Group’s reward and retention scheme means CEO David Harrison secured pay of A$8.5 million

Charter Hall Group’s reward and retention scheme means CEO David Harrison secured pay totalling A$8.5 million in 2022.

He was just one of two CEOs in the list to have received maximum potential bonuses for the last four financial years, securing a total of A$10.02 million.

As Australia’s largest property fund manager, and the largest landlord of Woolworths and Wesfarmers by rent, Charter Hall ended 2022 with A$79.9 billion in funds under management, holding the largest sector-diversified commercial property portfolio in Australia at A$65.6 billion.

Since joining Charter Hall in 2004, David has overseen the company’s growth from A$500 million to $88.0 billion of assets under management – marking the highest return of any listed real-estate company in Australia from 2004 to 2020. He has been mainly responsible for transactions exceeding A$25 billion of commercial, retail and industrial property assets over the past 27 years.

He continues to build the momentum of its investment portfolio and is recognised as a multi-core sector market leader.

Harrison has become known for his skills in looking beyond the traditional approach to property, resulting in longer leasing terms that provide greater security.

Harrison has three decades of property market experience across office, retail and industrial sectors in multiple geographies globally.

6

Rob Scott

CEO, Wesfarmers

A$7.95 million

As CEO of Wesfarmers, Rob Scott is charged with running one of Australia’s largest employerss

Charged with running one of Australia’s largest employers, it is unsurprising to find Rob Scott as one of the highest paid taking home a salary of A$7.95 million in 2022.

The conglomerate, which runs retail chains Bunnings, Kmart, Target, Officeworks and Priceline, and has operations in lithium mining, chemicals, fertilisers and a data and digital ecosystem, has more than 107,000 staff across its businesses and a valuation of A$57.12 billion.

In the 2022 financial year, Wesfarmers, recorded sales of A$36.4 billion securing a A$2.25 billion net profit.

Since his appointment as Managing Director and CEO of Wesfarmers in 2017, Scott has successfully led Wesfarmers through Covid-19 supply chain disruptions and store closures.

Among his many leadership achievements, Scott exited Bunnings’ UK business for £1, sold coal assets including its 40% interest in Bengalla Mining, and highlighted the demerger of Coles – and the last five years has seen the conglomerate’s stock rise by around 40%.  announced net-zero targets for carbon emissions for a number of its divisions

A trained accountant with a master’s degree in applied finance, Scott spent nearly 10 years in investment banking in Sydney and Hong Kong with Deutsche Bank, before joining Wesfarmers in 2004 in a business development role. He has held increasingly senior roles in various divisions of the conglomerate, including as MD of the industrials division, and as finance director of its supermarket chain Coles.

Scott is also a former competitive rower, Scott won an Olympic silver medallist in 1996.

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