ACCOUNTANT turned mining boss Tony Poli last year enjoyed a $169 million windfall from Aquila Resources, the iron ore company he runs, even as the second-tier iron miner's annual accounts show he was paid just $572,000.
Mr Poli's pay day which came about after he cashed in options issued to him five years earlier is a stark example of the real earnings of the nation's corporate bosses. Analysis of the nation's top 100 companies by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises the nation's biggest super funds, throws further light on how much our corporate leaders are really paid.
Minimum earnings disclosure fails to take into account the upside chief executives often receive from packages such as deferred bonus payments in shares or the cashing in of options the right to acquire shares in a company, often at a heavily discounted price.
The ASCI report, released today, also reveals how in 10 years paychecks of the nation's chief executives have grown at twice the pace of an average Australian income and more than three times as fast as inflation. Since 2002, the average CEO wage of $1.94 million is up 120 per cent. The average pay for the chief executive of a top-100 company comes in at $4.72 million.
The ACSI study also showed, however, that fixed pay for these bosses may have held steady over the last year, but bonuses have fallen as profits declined across corporate Australia.
"I think there is a mood for change on executive pay," Ann Byrne, chief executive of ACSI, said. "In the current market conditions, it is clear that boards have been listening to investor views on bonuses in light of company returns,"
BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers, who last year emerged as Australia's highest paid chief executive on $11.8 million, took home $17.3 million after the impact of a deferred bonus payment, according to the ACSI study. ANZ boss Mike Smith realised $4.36 million more from his disclosed $10.03 million in 2011.
Not all chief executives enjoyed the upside, Crown's Rowen Craigie received less than half the $7.71 million the gaming company had set aside for him.
Mr Poli exercised his options in December 2010, paying about 95? a share when Aquila shares were changing hands for more than $9.20. However, the company shares have since plunged, closing yesterday at $2.77.
Mr Poli could not be reached for comment.
Mr Poli's 30 per cent stake in Aquila took his wealth to $1 billion in 2009 and 2010, but this tumbled to $600 million last year as the resources boom started cooling.