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Zaz & The Art of Reputation Maintenance

David Zaslav
Zaz will now be required to pay at least $2.5 billion a year to keep a smaller NBA package that includes a conference final every other year and no postseason play-in games or in-season tournament. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
May 8, 2024

On Monday, Warner Bros. Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav was on a panel at the Milken Conference, the annual power summit in Beverly Hills, and asked to address the spectacular compensation he continues to receive despite the headwinds and hardship that his company has endured since its formation two years ago. “I think all C.E.O.s need to be paid in alignment with shareholders,” Zaz replied. “The majority of compensation should be aligned with the performance of the stock. If the stock does well, then the C.E.O. should do much better. If the stock doesn’t do well, the C.E.O. should not. So I think alignment is critically important.”

Since the merger, WBD stock is down 68 percent. Last year, Zaz’s compensation package—which is now tied to free cash flow, not stock performance—was $49.7 million, up 26.5 percent from the year prior. So when Zaz laid out his thesis, and subsequently claimed that such stock-to-comp alignment “has been the focus for me over the years,” many people in the audience frankly had no fucking clue what he was talking about. “Seriously, is he delusional?” one veteran media executive asked me. “WTF, is he on drugs?” asked an investor.