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Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav's compensation hit $156 million in 2014

Discovery chief executive's pay jumps for 2014 due to stock awards in a renegotiated contract

Discovery Communications Inc. Chief Executive David Zaslav's compensation topped $156 million last year, the cable company said in a Friday regulatory filing. 

The bulk of that eye-popping figure consisted of $144 million in stock awards to be vested over time, tying most of his compensation to the performance of the company's stock. 

In 2013, Zaslav's total compensation was $33.3 million, and in 2012 he earned $49.9 million.

The huge jump in pay is due to the stock awards he received in 2014, the first year of the executive's renegotiated contract, which was extended for six years. Beginning this year, Zaslav's pay is expected to fall to its normal levels.  

In its filing, Discovery noted that its market cap has increased to $20 billion from $5 billion since Zaslav took the reins in 2008. However, the company's stock is down 25% in the last 12 months. 

Zaslav's stated 2014 compensation far exceeds recently disclosed payouts for other media executives. Lionsgate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer's pay reached $63.6 million last year. Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger, who runs the largest entertainment company, pulled in $46.5 million.  

Media companies have long paid generous packages to their top executives. And companies sometimes offer big stock packages during contract negotiations to help make sure executives stay. In 2011, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook's stock awards totaled $376 million following the departure of Steve Jobs

Zaslav is required to hold on to 60% of the shares he receives until the end of the deal.  

One of the goals of the contract was to give Zaslav an ownership position in the company. Zaslav also has first right-of-refusal to buy shares owned by media mogul John Malone in the event that Malone sells. Malone controls 28.7% of the company's voting shares. 

Zaslav's annual base salary was $3 million, and he received a bonus of $6.08 million. His 2014 target bonus was $6.6 million, and increases by $600,000 each year. In the later years of his contract, his target bonus will be $9 million, according to the filing. His bonus also depends on the performance of the company.  

His 2014 total included $1.9 million in "other" compensation.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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