In monitoring online travel CEO compensation packages over the years, it’s always interesting to see these leaders receive what may be looked at as lifetime achievement awards, a monetary “thank you.” At long last, it’s time to cash in.
In 2013, some observers might have been taken aback when Tripadvisor co-founder and then-CEO Steve Kaufer commanded total compensation of $39 million, only to be followed by another $48 million in 2017. That turned out to be small compared with Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky’s $120 million total compensation package in 2020. Even more dramatic was Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern’s compensation package of close to $300 million in 2021.
The pay packages for 2022 are a tad smaller – and may seem outrageous to some.
The online travel boss with the largest award in 2022 was Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel. He got close to $31 million, a 404:1 ratio to the median employee at the company.
Sonder’s Francis Davidson, was number two, with $21.6 million, including $20.1 million in stock awards. Davidson co-founded the hospitality company, has served as CEO since 2014, and took the company public in a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, deal in January 2022.
But its stock price, $8.95 at the IPO, finished the year at $1.42. In 2023 — which didn’t have any bearing on the 2022 package — Sonder faces a potential delisting from the Nasdaq.
Much of the compensation we’re discussing is theoretical, potentially earned over the coming years, and contingent on reaching certain performance targets.
10 Largest Online Travel Pay Packages 2022
2022 Pay Package
Head of Hosting
Source: Skift/public filings
A Wall Street Journal-commissioned study found that the majority of CEOs’ payola in 2022 turned out to be considerably smaller than previously valued, a trend not seen for 10 years or so.
“The numbers show that in 2022 about two-thirds of the top executives at S&P 500 companies ended the year with smaller pay packages than they were awarded, at least on paper,” the story said.
Asked about Davidson’s compensation package given the company’s struggles, the company said: “Performance awards accounted for over 90 percent of our total CEO compensation in 2022, and they only start to actualize when our stock price goes above $13 per share. A dollar value is assigned to performance awards for accounting purposes, but our CEO only benefits when the stock price goes above $13 per share and other shareholders benefit.”
Sonder closed trading Friday at $0.65 per share so Davidson will have an enormous hurdle to actually receive the value of his compensation award.
Glenn Fogel Was Top Boss
The package for Fogel from Booking Holdings, which touts Booking.com, Kayak and Priceline among its brands, was a comedown from his 2021 package of $54 million.
If you’d invested $100 in Booking’s stock at the end of 2019, the total shareholder return would have been $98.13 compared with $81.50 for what Booking considers to be its peer group.
Booking generated more than $3 billion in net income in 2022, although the company doesn’t use these metrics to determine pay packages. Among the factors the board weighed were record revenue, gross bookings and room nights, $6.5 billion in stock repurchases, and progress in expanding in the U.S. market. Booking.com is headquartered in Amsterdam.
Companies in many other parts of the world don’t publicly disclose CEO compensation, but European pay packages tend to be lower than their U.S. counterparts.
Expedia Group CFO Julie Whalen’s Pay Topped CEOs of Tripadvisor and Vacasa
Among other highlights of the 2022 compensation packages: Expedia Group Chief Financial Officer Julie Whalen was awarded $16.4 million – $15.8 million of which was in performance-based stock awards.
That was larger than two new CEOs in 2022: Matt Goldberg of Tripadvisor and Rob Greyber of Vacasa.
“Upon her appointment as Expedia Group’s Chief Financial Officer on September 26, 2022, Ms. Whalen’s stock target was established at 17,342 shares (3x salary) until the next measurement date,” a financial filing stated. “Ms. Whalen has not yet met her target and therefore she is currently subject to the holdback.”
Travel CEO Pay in 2022
Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern’s total compensation package in 2022 was a relatively modest $1.1 million, but that followed his close to $300 million award in 2021.
Don’t Shed Tears for Brian Chesky’s Compensation
Like Kern of Expedia, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky didn’t make the 2022 top 10 list, with a mere $311,000 award, down from $120 million in 2020.
If you’d invested $100 in Airbnb stock when it went public on December 10, 2020, Airbnb calculated that investment would have been worth $143 at the end of 2022.
Airbnb Chief Technology Officer Aristotle Balogh, Chief Financial Officer David Stephenson, and Global Head of Hosting Catherine Powell all got compensation packages of around $10 million in 2022.
That put them in the top 10 and ahead of packages for Barry Diller, the Expedia Group chairman ($8 million) and Airbnb co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Blecharczyk ($7.6 million).
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