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Viacom pays execs big $ for staying home
Top two executives get tens of thousands for staying in their homes while traveling on business.
April 19, 2005: 6:36 AM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer
Les Moonves received $105,000 in 2004 as reimbursement for staying at home rather than a hotel when in New York on business. Freston got $43,100 for staying in his L.A. home while in that city on business.
Les Moonves received $105,000 in 2004 as reimbursement for staying at home rather than a hotel when in New York on business. Freston got $43,100 for staying in his L.A. home while in that city on business.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Les Moonves and Thomas Freston, the co-chief operating officers of media conglomerate Viacom, each saw their roughly $20 million in pay and bonus supplemented by tens of thousands of dollars for staying in their own homes.

The company's proxy statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission discloses that Moonves, who is based in Los Angeles but owns a home in New York, received an additional $105,000 in 2004 as reimbursement for staying in that home rather than a hotel when in New York on business. Viacom (Research) is based in New York.

Freston, who is based in New York but owns a home in Los Angeles, got $43,100 for staying in that L.A. home while in that city on business.

The extra pay was criticized by Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the Corporate Library, a corporate governance research organization that monitors executive pay. He said he's never seen that kind of supplemental pay listed on a proxy before.

"The very idea that someone earning $20 million should need reimbursement for any cost performing their duties as COO is curious enough," he said. "That they should be reimbursed living in their own house takes it to a different level of absurdity."

Hodgson cautioned that just because he's not seen such deals doesn't mean they haven't existed. He said companies are getting more careful about disclosing 'other compensation' to top executives on their proxy statements.

"This year is going to be the year of finding odd little things in that 'other compensation' column, because they're scared that the SEC will clamp down on stuff," he said. "Because of that companies have to reveal these sweet little deals. People think they'll stop doing them because they'll be ashamed. But that doesn't seem to be the case."

A spokeswoman for Viacom said the company did not any comment beyond the details spelled out in the proxy statement.

Both men also saw their income get a lift from non-business use of company aircraft, with Freston's personal travel on a corporate jet costing Viacom $68,855, while Moonves' personal travel was worth $72,615. In that regard they both trailed Chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone, whose personal travel on the corporate jet was worth $92,120.

Moonves and Freston were promoted to their current positions on July 1, setting up a competition for the CEO spot when Redstone retires, which he is set to do by 2007.

Moonves received $5.8 million in base pay and a bonus worth $14 million during the year, according to the statement. Freston received $4.2 million in base pay and $16 million in bonus pay.

Neither Moonves nor Freston had their 2003 compensation disclosed by the company's proxy statements.

For a look at news reports and stock quotes about Viacom, click here.  Top of page

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