April 13, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Tech executives make the list


Last year, Core Scientific CEO Mike Levitt was the state’s highest-paid corporate executive. Until he wasn’t.

Levitt, former CEO of investment firm Kayne Anderson Capital and previously vice chairman at private-equity giant Apollo Global Management, joined the Austin cryptocurrency-mining company last May, reaching a compensation agreement that included 8.4 million restricted shares — shares that vest over a period of time — plus 3.15 million more restricted shares once the company went public

As a result, Levitt’s 2021 compensation was valued at $160.7 million, which, on paper, dwarfed the $52 million in compensation that former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar earned in 2020 to put him atop that year’s list of Texas’s highest-paid corporate executives.

Levitt, however, may never cash-in. When Core Scientific went public in January after merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, shares were trading at almost $10. But since then, the value of cryptocurrencies has plummeted the company’s stock price has followed, recently sliding below $2 a share and potentially wiping out 80 percent of the value of Levitt’s compensation.

The company, which was founded in 2017 and moved its headquarters to Texas from Seattle last year, has not filed disclosures with Securities and Exchange Commission indicating that Levitt has sold any of his shares.

Core Scientific didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Levitt was not alone among top-paid Texas technology company executives whose compensation was heavy on paper and light on cash.. In fact, the list of top-paid executives in Texas (excluding Houston) reflected the state’s emergence as a technology-industry hotbed, whether in so-called “Silicon Bayou” Houston, “Third Coast” Austin or “Silicon Prairie” Dallas-Fort Worth.

Six of Texas’s 10 highest-paid corporate executives, including Levitt, run technology companies that went public within the past three years.

Still, the stock market has not been kind to those entities this year. Bryce Maddock, co-founder and CEO of the TaskUs, a New Braunfels digital services provider, earned $36.6 million in 2021 to make him the state’s third-highest-paid corporate executive. That said, virtually all of the compensation came through stock, restricted stock, and stock options.

The stock of the company, which moved its headquarters from Santa Monica, Calif. last year, has fallen about 30 percent since launching its IPO a year ago.

2021’s No. 4 earner Bronson Crouch is CEO of the Dallas-based biopharmaceutical company Instil Bio. He earned $35.8 million, but $34.8 million of that was in stock option awards. The company went public last March, and its stock has lost almost three-quarters of its value since then.

Last year’s fifth-highest-paid corporate executive in Texas was Kevin Jones, CEO of San Antonio cloud-technology-services provider Rackspace Technology. Jones earned $35.3 million, including $33.1 million in restricted stock. Its shares have lost about two-thirds of their value since Rackspace went public in 2020.

No. 8 Alex Shootman earned $28.2 million as CEO of Plano-based cloud-based banking provider Alkami. That company also went public last year, and its shares have lost more than half their value since then.

Getting hammered

“The stock market is hammering tech companies,” said Wes Hart, managing director of the Houston office of Pearl Meyer, an executive compensation consultant. “When we look back at end of the year, oil and gas bonuses are going to be good. The others? Not so much.”

The exception to such a trend was CrowdStrike Holdings. Last year, the Austin cybersecurity firm, which went public in 2019 and moved its headquarters from California’s Silicon Valley late last year, paid CEO George Kurtz $147.7 million, making him Texas’s second-highest-paid corporate executive.

That pay package included 540,000 shares that were valued at about $110 million but didn’t start vesting until this February and won’t be fully vested until 2025. Fortunately for Kurtz, who co-founded the company in 2011, CrowdStrike’s stock price this year was down about 9 percent through early July, but still worth about double its adjusted IPO price from 2019.

Meanwhile, the list of the state’s highest-paid corporate executives also reflected the changing nature of such C-suite jobs and compensation packages. Three of the state’s 10 best-compensated executives – Levitt, Shootman and No. 10 Robert C. Holmes, chief executive of Texas Capital Bancshares of Dallas, became CEOs of their respective companies just last year.

James Coulter stepped down from his position as co-CEO of Fort Worth-based private-equity firm TPG last May to become executive chairman and lead the firm’s fund that targets investments designed to help reduce climate-change. His $35.1 million pay package made him the state’s sixth-highest-paid corporate executive.

Rounding out the top 10 was No. 7 David Auld, CEO of Arlington-based D.R. Horton, with $30.6 million in compensation; No. 9 John Stankey, CEO at Dallas-based AT&T, who was paid $24.8 million and No. 10 Holmes, who earned $23.6 million.

In all, just one of the state’s 10 highest-paid corporate executives of 2020 – AT&T’s Stankey – made the 2021 list.


Salary accounted for just 1.3 percent of the compensation earned by the state’s 10 highest-earning executives last year. Stankey, the lone holdover from 2020, had by far the highest salary at $2.4 million, while Levitt, Shootman and Maddock, each earned salaries of less than $100,000.

“Executives are not guaranteed to receive the vast majority of their compensation unless the company performs,” said Ani Huang, CEO of Center On Executive Compensation, a group that studies, analyzes and promotes executive compensation policy. “That’s why the bulk of executive pay is delivered in the form of performance-based annual and long-term compensation rather than salary.”

In 2020, the list was led by WarnerMedia’s Kilar, Donald Horton of homebuilder D.R. Horton, former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Jayson Adair of online auto-auction company Copart.

Regardless of industry, executive compensation continued to outpace employee pay last year. Excluding the outliers — Levitt and Kurtz — the average compensation of the third- to 50th-highest-paid Texas corporate executives last year was $18.2 million, which is 15% more than the $15.8 million average salary earned by the 50 highest-paid Texas corporate executives in 2020.

By comparison, compensation for Dallas-area and Houston-area private-industry workers on average increased 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent last year, respectively, according to the Labor Department.

Women lag

The list of the state’s highest-paid CEOs continued to be a boys’ club, as just five of Texas’s 50 highest-paid corporate executives in 2021 were women. They were No. 22 Patricia Cook, CEO of Finance of America Companies, who earned $19.2 million; No. 35 Mei Hu, co-founder and CEO of Vaxxinity, who was paid $13.5 million; and No. 36 Lori Ryerkerk, CEO of Celanese Corp., who earned $12.6 million.

Also, No. 45 Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle Corp. (the longtime Silicon Valley company moved its headquarters to Austin in late 2020), was paid $10.3 million; and No. 50 Susan Salka, CEO of AMN Healthcare Services, $9.47 million.

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