there’s an interesting piece in today’s nytimes on a ceo who asked his board not to pay him so much. this seems to be the new mantra for business press, that any ceo who asks not to be paid is somehow a better form of the species.
why is it that in a capitalist system we (includes me) shower praise on those who seem the least greedy? we admire bill gates for giving away the majority of his fortune, or the ceo who takes $1.00 in salary.
if you had an employee who asked you not to pay him or her so much, how would you react? at first, i’d be psyched and wish there were more like her. but i would also think she wasnt that bright and worry how much intelligence she’ll apply on my behalf if she’s not maximizing her own.
my problem with gigantic ceo pay is less that the person is asking for it and more that their hand picked boards are giving it to them without the shareholders having any real representation. i dont see the solution as finding people who dont want to make a lot of money. there’s an amazingly direct relationship between brains and dollars which isnt going to change.
the answer is more companies run by major shareholders. this can come in two forms. one is the strong founder like a larry ellison or bill gates. the other is the strong owner like rupert murdoch or more recently carl icahn, who can represent shareholders with power in negotiating with equally strong ceo’s.