Discovery extends CEO David Zaslav's lucrative deal through 2019

Discovery extends CEO David Zaslav's lucrative deal through 2019
Discovery Communications on Friday extended CEO David Zaslav's employment contract through December 2019. Zaslav is pictured at the 2013 Women in Cable Television Leadership Conference in New York in October 2013. (Larry Busacca)

Discovery Communications has extended Chief Executive David Zaslav's lucrative employment agreement through 2019, with base salary and bonus targets of about $10 million a year. 

The deal, announced Friday, modifies how Zaslav's annual compensation is calculated to provide him with substantial stock holdings in the company.

Zaslav, who joined Discovery in January 2007, will continue to boast one of the most lucrative employment deals in corporate America.

“David has done a superb job," media mogul John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp. and a Discovery board member, said in a statement.  "He built a strong management team that has expanded the company’s reach and relevance, increased its market share domestically and around the world, and created a bigger, stronger portfolio of brands."

Zaslav's base salary will be $3 million a year for the duration of the agreement, according to a regulatory filing on Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

His target annual bonus will be $6.6 million in 2014, and increase by $600,000 each year until 2018. In 2018 and 2019, his bonus target will hit $9 million a year.

The actual amount paid to Zaslav will be determined by several company performance objectives, "which will be determined each year by the compensation committee of the board ... in consultation with Mr. Zaslav," the regulatory document said. His contract, which took effect Thursday, expires Dec. 31, 2019.

Zaslav, who will turn 54 later this month, will be entitled to generous stock awards, which are designed to make him a significant stock holder in the company.

For example, Zaslav will receive nearly 225,000 restricted stock units during this fiscal quarter.  In addition, on Friday, he was granted more than 3.7 million units known as stock appreciation rights, which eventually will be paid to Zaslav in the form of cash and stock in the company.

In its statement, Discovery credited Zaslav -- who previously worked at NBCUniversal -- for broadening the company's reach by doubling the total number of Discovery networks around the world. 

Discovery now boasts nearly 200 networks, up from 100 outlets when Zaslav joined the company. Discovery is distributed in more than 220 countries, making it the largest U.S. programmer overseas.

Zaslav also has experimented with Discovery's U.S. channels, including forging a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey to create OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, which Discovery co-owns. OWN has seen ratings improvement in the last year after a bumpy start.


Twitter: @MegJamesLAT