The 15 Highest Paid CEOs in 2015

Julie Chen and Leslie Moonves attend Vanity Fair Party

Whether you think it is a good thing or not, there are some heads of companies that make a lot of money. With the widening of the wealth gap in the United States of America and the slow, painful death of the middle class, many people are not so happy to see that certain individuals are making sums of money that are far beyond what they could possibly be adding to the firm's value chain. These crazy salaries have some people questioning whether or not capitalism is even sustainable. Of course, like anything, there is a diversity of opinion on the matter. Others feel that these salaries are a sign that capitalism is working just fine and that the money they earn will work its way back into the system for everyone to enjoy. Ultimately, one could argue that these salaries are acceptable considering that the base pay is generally not that high. Many of these CEO's make bonuses based on good performance but receive the bulk of their income from stock options that vest over time and are worth significantly more if the company grows greatly during their time as its leader.

Whatever the case may be, these CEO's are laughing all the way to the bank. The following list is based on research firm Equilar's findings with regards to total 2013 compensation of the following top executives. One can only hope these CEO's are giving most of this money away to charity, á la Bill Gates, though they probably are not.

15 David M. Zaslav - Discovery Communications: $33,349,798 per year

Via myventure.in

David M. Zaslav is the President and CEO of Discovery Communications. Discovery Communications is a Maryland-based American mass media corporation. In 1985, the company began with a single channel, the classic Discovery Channel. It has since diversified to 54 different channels including TLC, Velocity and Animal Planet. In 2006, David Zaslav became the CEO after being an executive at NBC Universal. Part of why David makes his staggering $33 million salary is his focus on growth and expansion for the company.

14 Robert A. Iger - Walt Disney Company: $34,321,055 per year

13 Leonard S. Schleifer - Regeneron: $36,272,665 per year

Via forbes.com

Leonard S. Schleifer is the President and CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Renegeron is a large American biotechnology company that originally worked on the regenerative capacity of neurotrophic factors. Now, they market a range of drugs that deal with lowering cholesterol, blindness in the elderly and colorectal cancer. Leonard Schleifer is the founder of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and currently serves as the company's CEO, making $36,272,665 per year. After obtaining several degrees and working under a Nobel laureate, he noticed a gap in the market where biotech companies were not focusing heavily on neurological medicines. Naturally, he started Regeneron Pharmaceuticals as a response to this gap.

12 Gary G. Friedman - Restoration Hardware: $36,456,559 per year

Via magazinec.com

Gary G. Friedman is the Chairman and Co-CEO of Restoration Hardware. Restoration is an American company based in California that specializes in the design, production and distribution of home furnishings, hardware and garden products. The company sells in person, online and in catalogues. Gary Friedman joined as CEO in 2010. He reportedly stepped down in 2012 after allegations of him having a relationship with a younger female employee, but he reclaimed his position in 2013 and now makes $36.5 million per year.

11 Philippe P. Dauman - Viacom: $37,186,099 per year

Via latimes.com

Philippe P. Dauman is the President and CEO of Viacom. Viacom is an American mass media corporation that primary deals with movies and television shows. Viacom owns MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount, BET, Spike, Comedy Central and more. Since 2006, the 60-year-old has been the president and CEO of the company and currently makes $37 million per year. Viacom is the sixth largest broadcasting and cable company in America in terms of annual revenue.

10 Martine A. Rothblatt - United Therapeutics: $38,218,255 per year

Via hellogiggles.com

That name just sounds like money, doesn't it? Martine is the CEO of United Therapeutics. United Therapeutics is a biotechnology company that specializes in the design, production and distribution of medical technology products and medicines for people with serious, chronic, life-threatening conditions. Despite their incomprehensibly creepily designed website, the medicines they make help people with horrible diseases live longer. Martine A. Rothblatt is the CEO and makes $38 million per year.

9 Stephen Kaufer - TripAdvisor: $39,014,227 per year

Via reknown.com

Stephen Kaufer is the President and CEO of TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a site that helps consumers decide between various hotels, resorts, spas, airlines and other vacation-relevant topics. TripAdvisor was one of the first sites to strongly encourage user-generated content and currently owns 25 similar websites such as Holiday Watchdog and Virtualtourist. Kaufer is the founder and current CEO, making around $39 million per year.

8 Jeffrey Weiner - LinkedIn: $49,071,364 per year

Via article.wn.com

Jeffrey Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a well-trafficked and established social media network with a focus on its users' professional qualifications. It is commonly used to keep in contact with people who are relevant to a user's business dealings or to help find a new job. Jeffrey Weiner, the CEO, has been in place since 2008 and makes $49,071,364 per year. As of 2013 LinkedIn reportedly has almost 260 million users in over 200 countries around the world.

7 Richard C. Adkerson - Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold: $55,260,539 per year

Via bloomberg.com

Richard C. Adkerson is the Vice Chairman, President and CEO of Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold. Founded in 1912, this Phoenix, Arizona-based company is one of the oldest and most established producers of Copper and Gold in the entire world. Like most mining companies, Freeport McMoran has a controversial environmental record. Nonetheless, the company performs very well financially and the CEO makes $55,260,539 per year. Akerman was previously chairman of the International Council on Mining and Metals.

6 Don A. Mattrick - Zynga: $57,814,391 per year

Via polygon.com

Don A. Mattrick is the CEO of Zynga. If that name rings a bell, it's because Zynga is the company that makes all those annoying games your mom keeps inviting you to play on Facebook, such as Farmville, Bubble Safari and Mafia Wars. It turns out that moms tend to pump a fair bit of cash into those games, as you may have gathered from Mr. Mattrick's annual compensation. The 51-year-old British Columbian takes home almost $58 million per year. Zynga as a whole made over $873 million in 2013.

5 W. Nicholas Howley - TransDigm Group: $64,214,656 per year

Via crainscleveland.com

W. Nicholas Howley is the Chairman and CEO of TransDigm Group. TransDigm Group develops and manufactures aerospace and military technology such as ignition systems and mechanical actuators. The company was formed when Nicholas Howley and partners acquired several similar companies. Howley serves as the current CEO and makes $64,214,656 per year; a drop in the bucket when you consider Transdigm made upwards of $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012.

4 Leslie Moonves - CBS: $65,589,245 per year

Via latimes.com

Leslie Moonves is the President and CEO of America's Most Watched Network, CBS. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. is, as the reader knows, an old and established American broadcasting company responsible for many classic television shows. It is now a widely diversified company that deals in many forms of entertainment and broadcasting. Before running CBS, Leslie Moonves had a long career as a television executive for a number of networks. In his current position Moonves rakes in over $65 million per year.

3 Lawrence J. Ellison - Oracle: $78,440,657 per year

Via nypost.com

2 Mario J. Gabelli - GAMCO Investors: $85,049,800 per year

Via crainsnewyork.com

Mario J. Gabelli is the Chairman, Chief Investment Officer and CEO of GAMCO Investors. GAMCO began in the 1970s as a market research firm and has since diversified into a full-service investment firm. Mario J. Gabelli is the founder of the firm and current CEO, making a staggering $85,049,800 per year. With a 50% stake in the company, Gabelli has a reported net worth of $1.2 billion.

1 Charif Souki - Cheniere Energy: $141,949,280 per year

Via bloomberg.com

And topping the list of "You Couldn't Possibly Be Worth That Much" is Charif Souki, the Chairman, President and CEO of Cheniere Energy. This disgustingly large compensation works out to $388,902 per day, or approximately 2,700 times the average American household income. Cheniere Energy is a Texas-based company that specializes in, of course, liquified natural gas transport. Forbes argues that his pay is justified since his base pay is less than a million, he made $3.7 million in cash bonuses, and the vast majority of the money is a result of the stock he owns in the company. The value of the stocks increased so drastically because the company transformed into a profitable giant between 2008 and 2013, due in part to Souki's leadership.

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