Forbes Middle East
Tough At The Top
Last month, super-wealthy hedge fund manager Christopher Hohn—#330 on Forbes' World Billionaires list last year with a net worth of over $5 billion—set a U.K. record for the highest ever annual paycheck by paying himself $479 million for the year ending February 2020. He's also reportedly a very generous philanthropist and his company TCI Fund Management apparently did significantly increase its profits, but still, wow, that's quite a sum. Still, it pales in comparison to the $595.3 million that Elon Musk reportedly earnt in 2019 as the CEO of Tesla.
We can only presume that the average CEO did not do quite so well last year, although many probably did better than you might expect considering the circumstances. According to a survey by AON published in August last year, only 3% of participating companies reported either canceling or readjusting their CEO's bonus awards in response to COVID-19. And CEO's bonuses are not small—it's their extended compensation packages, which can run into multi-millions, rather than their basic salaries where they often make the really big bucks. While you may have heard that many CEOs reduced or waived their salaries last year, don't presume that means they went too far out of pocket.
To be fair, leading an organization from the very top—especially one with a workforce of thousands and a balance sheet worth billions—can't be an easy task. The pressure on a CEO's shoulders with so many people's lives dependent on your corporate decision-making and handling of operations must be immense. And that's just one side of the coin. On the other you have board members and shareholders expecting you to grow business and increase dividends by any means necessary. And if you don't perform, you can expect a swift steer to the exit. A 2018 survey by Strategy& found that globally the median tenure for a CEO was just five years, and often it's not their decision to leave, with 39% of departing CEOs that year forced out due to ethical reasons.
All in all, it takes an exceptionally strong and methodical person to succeed as a CEO—it's not a role that anyone could do, or would want to do. And leading an organization through a pandemic makes a tough job even tougher. For all the benefits to being on top, it's been a challenging year. So, this month we recognize the achievements and successes of the Middle East's most powerful CEOs, and their overall contribution to the region's economies. Of course this isn't every good CEO in town—there are thousands of those, so we had to be extremely selective. These are the top 100 leaders currently in charge of the biggest, most profitable, and most impactful organizations in MENA. I hope you enjoy getting to know them better.