48 CEOs Taking Pay Cuts To Help Their Companies Survive the Coronavirus

From restaurant chains to movie theaters, airlines to publishers, nearly all major industries are feeling

From restaurant chains to movie theaters, airlines to publishers, nearly all major industries are feeling the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. With major companies losing major money, many CEOs are stepping up and sacrificing their own salaries to keep their companies afloat. It’s worth noting that many of these salary cuts only affect executive base pay and do not include bonuses, stock options and other compensation.

Guess officially furloughed all U.S. and Canada store employees on April 2; it also furloughed roughly 50% of its corporate employees, Footwear News reported. Salaries were cut for all management positions, beginning at 15% for lower-level managers and going up to a 70% cut for CEO Carlos Alberini and chief creative officer Paul Marciano.

“These are some of the most difficult decisions our company has had to make in our entire four-decade history. And while many of these decisions have proven very challenging, by far the hardest one is the decision to furlough our associates,” Alberini said in a statement obtained by Footwear News. “We will make every effort to bring our team members back to their jobs as soon as we possibly can.”

With movie theaters closed and losing cash, AMC’s top executives — including CEO Adam Aron — agreed to cut their cash salary by 15% and decrease other compensation over three years in exchange for stock that will only vest if the price doubles or triples, Deadline reported. Aron said he would lose $1.6 million as a result of the pay cut.

Eric Artz, president and CEO of REI, announced in April that he was forfeiting 100% of his base salary for the next six months as well as his incentive eligibility for all of 2020, Chain Store Age reported. The outdoor goods retailer began an unpaid 90-day furlough of the majority of its retail and field employees on April 15. During the 90-day period, all health and welfare benefits will continue as normal for all eligible furloughed employees.

In an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. announced that the company’s president and CEO Geoff Ballotti would “forgo 100% of his 2020 base compensation indefinitely. This reduction will be effective until such time as the Compensation Committee determines otherwise in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media — which owns New York Magazine, Vulture, The Verge and SB Nation — said that he would be taking a 50% pay cut from May 1 to July 31, Variety reported. His reduced pay is one of many cost-cutting measures the company is taking — Vox also said that it would be furloughing 9% of its employees without pay for a three-month period, implementing tiered salary reductions for remaining working staff and pausing 401(k) matching contributions.

On March 18, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced that he would be taking a 100% pay cut for the next six months. He also announced that all Delta officers would take a 50% pay cut through June 30, directors and managing directors would take a 25% cut during that same period, and the Delta board of directors would forego their compensation over the next six months as well. 

The president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear Company, Tim Boyle, dramatically reduced his pay in order to be able to continue paying employees at the company’s shuttered retail stores, The Oregonian reported. Columbia Sportswear’s approximately 3,500 retail employees are receiving their regular paychecks under a “catastrophic pay” program.

In an email sent to Walt Disney Co. employees, CEO Bob Chapek said that he would be taking a 50% pay cut, The Hollywood Reporter reported. The email stated that chairman Bob Iger would forgo his entire salary.

Disney’s North American theme parks are closed until further notice.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb

As travel bookings plummeted following stay-at-home orders, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced two major cost-saving measures to help keep the company afloat during a conference call with company employees, Inman reported. Chesky said that he would be forgoing his salary for the rest of 2020, as would co-founders Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. Other executives would take a 50% pay cut. In addition, Airbnb would put a pause on marketing efforts, which would save the company roughly $800 million.

Chesky is worth $4.1 billion, according to Forbes.

Edward Christie, Spirit

  • Salary: $647,917 estimated base pay (based on 2018 CEO salary)
  • Pay cut: 30%

Spirit CEO Edward Christie reduced his salary by 30% and other executives at the airline also took pay cuts, The Points Guy reported.

James Conroy, Boot Barn

  • Salary: $745,827 base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 50%

Irvine, California-based Western retail chain Boot Barn stated in an SEC filing that its president and CEO James Conroy would take a temporary 50% salary cut, effective April 12, the Orange County Business Journal reported. Other senior executives would take a 25% pay cut.

The chain furloughed 40% of workers in its stores, distribution centers and its main office.

Larry Culp, GE

  • Salary: $625,000 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

In a letter to GE employees released in late March, GE chairman and CEO Larry Culp said that he would “forgo my full salary for the remainder of 2020.” In the same letter, Culp announced that GE Aviation would be letting go of approximately 10% of its U.S. workforce.

Nancy Dubuc, Vice

Vice Media announced in an all-hands staff meeting in March that it would be cutting salaries for executives — including CEO Nancy Dubuc, who took a 50% pay cut — as well as halting matching contributions to 401(k) plans and freezing promotions through July, The Daily Beast reported.

Glenn Fogel, Booking Holdings

  • Salary: $750,000 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Booking Holdings — which owns the brands Booking.com, Kayak, Priceline, Agoda, RentalCars.com and OpenTable — announced that its CEO Glenn Fogel, as well as the CEOs of the company’s three brand divisions, would forgo their respective salaries. The online travel booking company’s board of directors also volunteered to give up their cash retainers, CNN reported.

Maurice Gallagher, Allegiant

Allegiant’s CEO Maurice Gallagher does not take a base salary, according to the travel company’s 2018 proxy statements, and the company announced in March that he would continue to forgo a salary in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a situation which is changing daily, and we are focused on taking proactive steps to protect the health and safety of our customers and team members, and to ensure our resilient company can continue to provide access to convenient, affordable nonstop travel,” Gallagher said in a press release.

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Michelle Gass, Kohl’s

  • Salary: $1.4 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Michelle Gass, CEO of Kohl’s, announced that she would not be taking a salary as the company moved forward with plans to furlough its store and store distribution center associates, Chain Store Age reported in late March. Kohl’s said that it would continue to provide existing health benefits to its furloughed associates.

“It is an incredibly difficult decision to extend our store closures and temporarily furlough some of our associates,” Gass told Chain Store Age. “We look forward to the day that we can reopen our stores to welcome our associates back and serve the millions of families across the country that shop Kohl’s.”

Jeff Gennette, Macy’s

  • Salary: $1.29 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Macy’s stores closed on March 17 and shortly after, the department store’s CEO, Jeff Gennette, announced that he would receive no compensation for the duration of the crisis, Business Insider reported. He also said that all directors and senior employees would see a reduction in pay starting in April. Macy’s has since furloughed a majority of its 125,000 employees, CNN reported.

Logan Green, Lyft

  • Salary: $401,539 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green said in an email sent to drivers for the ride-share company on March 20 that he would contribute his salary through the end of June to company efforts supporting drivers during the coronavirus crisis, Yahoo Finance reported.

Robin Hayes, JetBlue Airways

  • Salary: $578,750 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 20%

JetBlue Airways announced in March that its CEO, Robin Hayes, would be taking a temporary salary cut of 20%, Reuters reported. Other JetBlue leaders at the officer level would also be taking temporary salary cuts of various amounts, a spokesperson for the airline told the news service.

Ernie Herrman, TJX Companies

  • Salary: $1.6 million base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 30%

TJX Companies — the parent company of T.J.Maxx, Marshall’s and HomeGoods — stated in an SEC filing that it would be implementing temporary furloughs for most of its retail store and distribution center employees after April 11, Chain Store Age reported. The company’s CEO, Ernie Herrman, and its executive chairman, Carol Meyrowitz, took a 30% pay cut beginning April 12 through July 4.

Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt

  • Salary: $1.2 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

On March 25, Hyatt announced that all of its employees would have their pay cut from April 1 through May 31, USA Today reported. The company also announced that it would be imposing temporary furloughs or significantly cutting the schedules of two-thirds of its U.S. corporate employees.

In the same statement, Hyatt announced that its CEO, Mark Hoplamazian, and its chairman, Tom Pritzker, would be giving up 100% of their salaries through May. The rest of Hyatt’s senior executives would be taking 50% salary cuts.

John Idol, Capri Holdings

  • Salary: $1.35 million base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 100%

John Idol, chairman and CEO of Capri Holdings, announced in early April that he would be furloughing the company’s North American retail staff — about 7,000 workers — beginning on April 11, CPP Luxury reported. Capri Holdings is the parent company of Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors and Versace.

Idol announced that he would be forfeiting his salary for the 2021 fiscal year, as would Michael Kors’ founder and chief creative officer Michael Kors, Versace chief creative officer Donatella Versace and Jimmy Choo chief creative officer Sandra Choi.

Gary Kelly, Southwest

  • Salary: $750,000 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 10%

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced he would be taking a 10% pay cut as the coronavirus continued to take a major toll on the airline industry at large, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The velocity and the severity of the decline is breathtaking,” he said in a video message that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal. “There is no question this is a severe recession for our industry and for us, and it’s a financial crisis.”

John Lansing, NPR

National Public Radio told its staff that it was slashing executive salaries as a way to avoid layoffs.

“We do not have any position eliminations on the table now, and it is our goal to avoid them as much as is reasonably possible,” the nonprofit’s CEO, John Lansing, said in an email obtained by The New York Times.

Lansing would be taking a 25% pay cut as part of the effort to keep his staff.

Ben Lerer, Group Nine

Group Nine, the digital publisher that owns Thrillist, The Dodo, Popsugar and others, announced in March that it would be cutting pay for its executives by 25%, while its CEO, Ben Lerer, would take a 100% pay cut for about six months, Digiday reported. It also suspended benefits, including nonmandatory merit raises and matching 401(k) contributions, for an indefinite amount of time.

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Patrice Louvet, Ralph Lauren

  • Salary: $1.25 million base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 50%

As Ralph Lauren the brand moved to furlough all of its store employees, Ralph Lauren himself announced that he would be forgoing his salary for the 2021 fiscal year and his bonus from the 2020 fiscal year, Chain Store Age reported. CEO Patrice Louvet is taking a 50% pay cut during the coronavirus crisis while the retailer’s roughly 140 executives would reduce their salaries by 20% for the first quarter of fiscal 2021.

Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group

Danny Meyer, the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack, tweeted on March 17 that he would be contributing his entire compensation to a relief fund set up for his employees who lost work as restaurants shuttered their doors. He also shared that the company’s executive team was “taking a meaningful pay cut.”

Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops

Many Bass Pro Shops have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic as some states and towns have deemed gun shops essential businesses, Forbes reported. Despite this, the company announced in a memo to employees that managers, distribution center managers and other salaried employees would see a 7% to 15% reduction in pay. Bass Pro Shops also suspended matching contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts.

Senior leadership is taking a 20% cut in pay, while its CEO, Johnny Morris, is taking a 100% pay cut. Morris is worth a whopping $3.7 billion.

A company spokesperson told Forbes that 91% of Bass Pro Shops employees are not affected by the pay cuts because they are hourly workers.

Oscar Munoz, United

  • Salary: $1.25 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

United CEO Oscar Munoz announced in March that he would be forgoing his salary through the end of his time in the role, CNBC reported. United president Scott Kirby will take over as CEO in May and will forgo his base salary through at least June 30.

Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corporation

  • Salary: $3 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

In an internal memo to employees, Fox Corporation executive chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch announced that he would be giving up his salary through the end of September, The Hill reported. Co-chairman Rupert Murdoch and executive officers John Nallen, Viet Dinh and Steve Tomsic would also not receive salaries, the memo stated.

“We are in this together, and with courage and a renewed sense of purpose, we will emerge from this challenge stronger, more grateful for our blessings and more indispensable than ever,” Lachlan stated.

Alan Murray, Fortune

With advertising revenue in a rapid decline, many publications are having to cut costs. Fortune announced on April 14 that it had laid off 10% of its staff and would be implementing pay cuts for its executives, TheWrap reported. CEO Alan Murray took a 50% pay cut, while the rest of the executive team took an approximately 30% pay cut.

Erik Nordstrom, Nordstrom

  • Salary: $756,393 base pay for 2019
  • Pay cut: 100%

With stores closed indefinitely, Nordstrom announced on April 8 that it had furloughed “a portion” of its staff for six weeks with furloughed employees receiving benefits through May, MarketWatch reported. CEO Erik Nordstrom said he would be forgoing his salary from April through September, as would chief brand officer Peter Nordstrom. In addition, the Nordstrom board would be forgoing cash compensation for six months.

Michael O’Sullivan, Burlington

  • Salary: $1.19 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

As Burlington Stores Inc. closed its retail locations, CEO Michael O’Sullivan announced that he would not take a salary, NJBIZ reported. In addition, the company’s executive team agreed to a 50% pay cut.

Burlington temporarily furloughed most of its store and distribution center employees, providing them with two weeks of pay and continuing to provide 100% of their current health benefit premiums.

“Protecting the health and safety of our associates, customers and the communities that we serve is our top priority,” O’Sullivan said in a statement obtained by NJBIZ.

Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is trying to prevent layoffs by cutting salaries across the board. The pay-cut percentage increases with salary, with the lowest earners taking a 5% cut for April and May and CEO Jonah Peretti taking a full pay cut “until we are on the other side of this crisis,” he wrote in a memo to staff that was obtained by The Daily Beast.

Peretti is worth $200 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Michael Rapino, Live Nation

  • Salary: $3 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino will voluntarily not be getting a paycheck for the remainder of 2020, Variety reported. Other senior executives saw their salaries reduced by up to 50%.

“Additional cost reduction efforts include hiring freezes, reduction in the use of contractors, rent re-negotiations, furloughs, and reduction or elimination of other discretionary spending, including, among other things, travel and entertainment, repairs and maintenance, and marketing,” the live entertainment company said in a statement obtained by Variety.

Roger Rawlins, Designer Brands

  • Salary: $922,846 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 20%

Designer Brands — the parent company of DSW, Camuto Group and The Shoe Company — announced in late March that it was placing 80% of its workforce on unpaid leave, Columbus Business First reported. As part of its pay cuts due to coronavirus-related closures, executive salaries would be slashed 20%. That includes the salary of the company’s CEO, Roger Rawlins, according to Forbes.

Barbara Rentler, Ross

  • Salary: $1.34 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

With Ross locations closed indefinitely, CEO Barbara Rentler said on April 2 that she would be forgoing her salary, MarketWatch reported. Board chairman Michael Balmuth also gave up 100% of his salary.

Ross Stores began furloughing most of its store and distribution center associates on April 5.

Brian Roberts, Comcast

  • Salary: $3.2 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts said in a memo to the company’s staff that he would be donating 100% of his salary to charities that support COVID-19 relief efforts, Deadline reported. The memo also stated that “across our businesses, we have committed $500 million to support our employees through continued pay and benefits where operations have been paused or impacted, and we have committed significant resources to support our customers.”

Edward Rosenfeld, Steve Madden

  • Salary: $899,038 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

In a March 30 SEC filing, Steve Madden announced plans to furlough a “significant” number of its employees starting April 1 — though they would still be able to retain their medical benefits, Footwear News reported.

Chairman and CEO Edward Rosenfeld and founder and creative chief Steve Madden agreed to give up their whole salaries to help keep the shoe brand afloat.

Arne Sorenson, Marriott

  • Salary: $1.3 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

In a video message released on Twitter on March 19, Marriott International president and CEO Arne Sorenson announced that he would be taking a 100% pay cut for the rest of 2020, while the executive team would be taking a 50% pay cut.

Ed Stack, Dick’s Sporting Goods

  • Salary: $1.1 million base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 100%

In a filing with the SEC, Dick’s Sporting Goods stated that the company’s chairman and CEO, Ed Stack, would receive no salary beginning March 29, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The company president was also forgoing her salary. The pay cuts were done so that the retailer could provide its employees with full pay and benefits as stores remained closed.

W. Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse

  • Salary: $525,000 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Texas Roadhouse CEO W. Kent Taylor sacrificed not just his base salary but also his bonus pay from March 18 through Jan. 7, 2021, in order to continue to pay the steakhouse chain’s frontline workers, MarketWatch reported.

In 2018, Taylor’s salary plus bonus pay totaled $1.35 million, according to proxy statements.

Brad Tilden, Alaska Air

  • Salary: $563,846 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Both the CEO and president of Alaska Air announced that they would be slashing their pay to $0 through September, the Associated Press reported.

“These actions are unprecedented, but these are truly unprecedented times,” Alaska CEO Brad Tilden said in a news release obtained by the AP. “Alaska has been here for 88 years to serve our customers and communities and to provide good jobs for our people. It is imperative that we act swiftly and courageously to ensure that we’re here to continue our mission in the future.”

Mark Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond

  • Salary: $1.2 million base pay as of 2019
  • Pay cut: 30%

In an SEC filing from April 2, Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton said that he would be cutting his salary by 30% through May 2, NJ.com reported. The filing also stated that a majority of the company’s store associates and some of its corporate employees had been furloughed until at least May 2.

Geoffroy van Raemdonck, Neiman Marcus

  • Salary: $461,539 base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

Neiman Marcus announced plans to roll out furloughs and pay cuts across its nearly 14,000 employees in late March, USA Today reported. CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said that he would be waiving his whole salary and other executives would be waiving a “significant amount.”

“While these are the most difficult decisions to make, our focus is on ensuring our business is protected over the long-term so we can continue serving our associates and customers,” said van Raemdonck in a statement obtained by USA Today.

As of April 26, Neiman Marcus was preparing to declare bankruptcy, Reuters reported.

Mimi Vaughn, Genesco

  • Salary: $903,310 estimated base pay (based on 2019 CEO salary)
  • Pay cut: 100%

Genesco executives — including president and CEO Mimi Vaughn and executive chairman Bob Dennis — are forgoing their 2020 salaries, the Nashville Post reported. The parent company of Journeys and Dockers had furloughed 90% of its workforce in the U.K. and the U.S. as of April 6. Genesco committed to paying its employees’ shares of healthcare premiums while suspending 401(k) matches.

Jeremy Zimmer, United Talent Agency

With the entertainment industry on hold, United Talent Agency announced on March 23 that it would be cutting the salaries of all of its approximately 1,200 employees, the Los Angeles Times reported. A source told the newspaper that CEO Jeremy Zimmer and co-presidents Jay Sures and David Kramer would be forgoing their salaries for the rest of 2020.

Mark Zoradi, Cinemark

  • Salary: $1 million base pay as of 2018
  • Pay cut: 100%

In an April 13 filing with the SEC, Cinemark announced that its directors and CEO Mark Zoradi “have elected to take no salary and numerous of its executives have voluntarily reduced their salaries by 80% for so long as our theatres remain closed.” Despite the pay cuts, 17,500 of the chain’s domestic hourly theater employees were laid off, Deadline reported.

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