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Revealed: The CEOs with the most jaw-dropping bonus payments

Revealed CEOs with the most jaw-dropping bonus payments

In the realm of executive compensation, where bonuses often reach stratospheric heights, a recent study by The Stock Dork has unveiled the CEOs with the most jaw-dropping bonus payments and rewards in recent years. Among these high-earning chief executives, Elon Musk’s name shines the brightest, thanks to a record-breaking bonus payment that made headlines worldwide.

  • Elon Musk received the highest CEO bonus payment ever in 2018 when he was awarded $2.23 billion in stock options.
  • For every dollar the average Oracle employee earned, Safra Catz took home $1,723 in bonuses.
  • On average, CEOs are paid more in stocks and options than salary and cash bonuses combined.

A new study has revealed that Elon Musk received the highest CEO bonuses in recent years.

The analysis undertaken by The Stock Dork examined bonus payments of CEOs from the top 50 market cap companies over the last five years to determine those with the highest compensation payments and average compensation over the period.

The CEO with the most impressive average yearly bonus is Elon Musk of Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). Musk’s average yearly bonus stands at an impressive $456.7 million. A significant chunk of this average was influenced by a massive one-time stock option bonus of $2.23 billion in 2018, the largest ever given to a CEO.

If Elon Musk had received this monumental bonus today, it would equate to the Tesla CEO taking home $67,011 for every $1 earned by his median-paid employees. While his substantial earnings are closely tied to performance-based stock options, this direct comparison highlights the significant wage disparity within the company’s leadership.

In second place is Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL). His average yearly bonus is a whopping $98.9 million. In 2022 he received $10 million as a cash bonus and $42.2 million as stocks, which means that for every dollar the median Google employee earned, Sundar Pichai took home $275 in bonus payments.

Securing third place is Andy Jassy of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). Andy Jassy’s yearly bonus average lands at $53.4 million. The Amazon CEO’s highest recent bonus was in 2021, when he received a $211 million equity bonus. Andy Jassy collected $6,198 as bonus payments for every dollar the typical Amazon worker made.

Safra Catz of Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) takes the fourth spot with an average bonus of $50.8 million a year. In 2022, Safra was awarded $129 million in stock options, which, when broken down, reveals that for every dollar earned by the average Oracle employee, Safra took home $1,723 in bonuses. Stock awards comprise a considerable portion of her compensation, reflecting Oracle’s long-term growth strategy.

In fifth place, we find Tim Cook of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), whose yearly bonus averages $43.9 million. In 2022, Tim was awarded $82 million in stocks, which means that for every dollar the average Apple employee earned that year, their CEO took home $982 in stock bonuses.

Though Tim was also awarded a $12 million cash bonus, Apple heavily leans on stock awards for executive bonuses, ensuring that CEO interests align with those of the shareholders.

In sixth place is Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO, Satya Nadella, who receives an average bonus of $41.2 million each year, and securing the seventh spot is Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), who receives an average yearly bonus of $40.6 million. 

Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) CEO Patrick P. Gelsinger ranks eighth with a yearly bonus of $37.2 million, and Adobe’s (NASDAQ: ADBE) CEO Shantanu Narayen secures the ninth position with an average annual bonus of $34.9 million. 

Morgan Stanley’s (NYSE: MS) CEO James P. Gorman rounds out the top ten. His yearly bonus stands at $31.1 million. In 2022, he was awarded a total bonus of $37 million, with $30 million coming from stocks. This equates to a pay ratio of 1:263 when compared to the median salary at Morgan Stanley.

The disparity in bonus payments between CEOs and median employees touches on larger issues of income inequality in corporate settings. Such wage gaps can impact employee morale and retention, shape public perception of companies, and have broader economic ramifications due to concentrated wealth.

While some argue that CEOs’ unique responsibilities and pressures justify their high compensation, concerns about fairness, equity, and the collective contribution of all employees to a company’s success remain central to the debate. Balancing the attraction of top leadership talent with broader social and economic implications poses an ongoing challenge for businesses.

Speaking on the findings, Adam Garcia, Founder of The Stock Dork said:

“It’s intriguing to observe the compensation models of renowned CEOs. For instance, in 2022, Mark Zuckerberg of Meta Platforms chose a symbolic $1 salary and forwent any bonus. However, he received $27 million in other compensation-like awards, covering 401(k) investments and security costs.”

“Many top executives increasingly favor stocks, options, and performance-related rewards. This shift in strategy aligns CEOs’ incentives with their companies’ growth and is well-received by board members.”

“Many CEOs are rewarded with stock options, granting them the right to purchase shares often at a price lower than the market value. For example, if the option’s strike price is $50 but the market value is $250, the CEO effectively gets each share which they can immediately sell at a $200 discount.”

The CEOs with the most jaw-dropping bonus payments:

Highest CEO Cash Bonus - 5 Years

Highest CEO Stocks and Options Bonus - 5 Years


The study:

For this analysis, The Stock Dork used data from the companies’ most recent financial statements, SEC filings, and public annual reports. This data was then cross-referenced to ensure accuracy, with a focus specifically on the bonus component of executive compensation. The CEO bonus pay ratio, which compares the bonus payments of a company’s chief executive to the median salary of its workforce, was also included to offer a more comprehensive perspective. Market cap data is correct as of 09/07/23.


Bonus is classed as cash, stocks, and stock options awarded.- Everything that isn’t a base salary or ‘total other’ in sec filings.


Some of these CEOs have changed roles and weren’t in the CEO position before this year. In those cases, the previous year’s salary or bonuses will still be counted to give a better earnings perspective.


To give a better overall picture of bonus payments, the most recent five-year period was chosen and used to base averages.

Tanvi Dasaur is a seasoned copywriter and project manager with a passion for staying ahead of current trends in marketing and personal finance. During her leisure time, she indulges her inherent curiosity and thirst for exploration, immersing herself in unfamiliar domains; eagerly learning and embracing new experiences along the way.