Being a chief executive officer of a major public listed company comes with plenty of stress and challenges. Fortunately, it also usually comes with a considerable pay packet.

On Friday last three of Ireland’s biggest plcs which would be of interest to farmers released their annual reports which included the pay packets awarded to their CEOs.

By far the biggest winner was Siobhán Talbot at Glanbia, who saw her total compensation jump 74% in 2022. While much of the gain was driven by a change in how her bonuses were calculated and around half of it was in shares rather than cash, the €5.99m package is very substantial. Especially when you consider shares in the company ended the year 3% lower, despite a large share buyback programme.

While the structure of her bonus package means there may not be a repeat of this blockbuster payment, the figure certainly raised plenty of eyebrows when it was announced.

Edmond Scanlon. \ Philip Doyle

Over at Kerry, CEO Edmond Scanlon saw his total compensation increase by a tiny 1.1% to a (still very substantial) €3.899m. This is despite a considerable 25.6% drop in the company’s share price during 2022 from €113.25 to €84.24 a share.

FBD chief executive Tómas Ó’Mídheach

The minnow in the group, FBD Insurance, paid its CEO Tomás Ó Midheach €1.08m. Ó Midheach saw no increase in his base salary in 2022, and a small €15,000 move in bonus. This is despite a huge 45% rise in the company’s share price during 2022. That rise has continued into 2023, with shares at €13.70, a full 80% above the Jan 1 2022 price of €7.58.

Median employee

Another way of looking at CEO pay is to see how it compares to the earnings of the median employee at the company. For FBD, that’s a (relatively) modest 13.5 times. At Kerry that number jumps to 77 times while over in Glanbia it is at 91 times, reflecting the higher median salaries at the company.

To put it another way, Ó Midheach had to work until nearly the end of January to earn what his median employee earned in all of the year.

Scanlon had his median employee’s annual salary earned by the time he was having his morning coffee on Thursday of the first week of the year.

Talbot had it covered after working less than three days of the year.

There is always an argument to be made about how much is too much for a CEO to earn. When the company is listed, the amount is decided by a remuneration committee and approved (or not) by shareholders. If shareholders vote in favour of the package, then there’s not really a lot more to be said about it as they are the ones who own the company.