Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin: ' I’m One of the Most Underpaid Executives' in History

8:35 AM PST 04/04/2012 by Georg Szalai
Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

An annual Forbes list puts him in the basement of a bang-for-the-buck CEO ranking as his firm's stock has declined over his tenure, but he highlights subscriber and financial growth.

NEW YORK - Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin feels his compensation at the satellite radio giant hasn't been particularly generous, even though an annual Forbes list puts him in the basement of a bang-for-the-buck CEO ranking.

“I think I’m one of the most underpaid executives in the history of executive payment,” he told Forbes when asked about his pay at Sirius and then the merged Sirius XM over the past seven years.

Forbes highlighted though that the former president of CBS Corp. and former president of Viacom after the companies' combination has had solid financial earnings despite a weak stock performance at Sirius. Its list of best and worst bang-for-the-buck CEOs is expected to come out later on Wednesday.

Karmazin earned more than $37 million at Sirius since he became its CEO in Nov. 2004 and is expected to get another $125 million or so next month thanks to a planned exercise of stock ­options. Meanwhile, Sirius shares have dropped from around $9 shortly after he took the reins to $2.33 as of Tuesday's market close.

Karmazin highlighted growth in other metrics though during his tenure. For example, he said Sirius had 660,000 subscribers when he joined the company and is now at around 22 million. Its operating cash flow and free cash flow have improved. And revenue has risen from $67 million to $3 billion, Forbes cited numbers he highlighted

“When I joined, the revenue was about the size of a New York radio station,” Karmazin told Forbes. “We are today the largest radio company in the world.”

Karmazin didn't comment on a recent regulatory showdown with John Malone's Liberty Media, which has owned a 40 percent stake in Sirius since helping the firm with a financial injection a few years ago when Sirius faced possible bankruptcy. A provision blocking it from raising its stake recently expired, and Liberty moved to take control of Sirius assets, which drew a sharp response from the satellite radio firm.

However, Karmazin said the Liberty investment was a wise move. “Some people would say a mistake I made was not filing for Chapter 11 [bankruptcy],” he told Forbes. “I believe our shareholders would’ve been screwed, our debt holders would’ve been screwed, and I can’t live that way."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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