Skift Take

Was TripAdvisor's CEO Stephen Kaufer worth $39 million in 2013? That amount is a bit of an anomaly as it includes $38 million in stock options, and he won't be eligible for more until the Summer of 2017. Although there are complaints that TripAdvisor gives geographic growth a higher priority than short-term shareholder return, we don't see anyone complaining.

The highest CEO compensation in online travel in 2013 went to TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, who earned more than $39 million — and his peers weren’t even close.

Kaufer’s $39 million compared with $15 million for Jeffery Boyd, chairman and then-CEO of the Priceline Group; $7.46 million for Expedia Inc.’s Dara Khosrowshahi; $5.26 million for Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford, and $3 million for then-Sabre CEO Michael “Sam” Gilliland. [See table below.]

The TripAdvisor CEO’s compensation even made the $19.6 million pay that Wynn Resorts’ CEO Steve Wynn earned in 2013 seem a relative side note. Wynn was the highest paid hotel CEO in 2013 among public companies.

Kaufer’s 2013 compensation amounted to a 510% raise over his 2012 pay.

While Boyd of Priceline took second-place honors in total compensation among publicly listed U.S. online travel companies in 2013, his successor Darren Huston, who became Priceline CEO January 1, 2014, would have garnered second place had he been CEO at the time because his 2013 compensation was $17.9 million, higher than Boyd’s.

That is indeed surprising, but on the other hand, Huston was in charge of the Priceline Group’s hottest property,

The Priceline Group was obviously grooming Huston for the top spot in 2013 when he was in charge of inter-brand relations within the Group, and served as CEO of, a role he still holds today along with Group CEO.

Boyd’s 2013 compensation included a $6.5 million incentive payment as the Priceline Group increased its gross bookings 37.7% year over year, and saw its adjusted EBITDA rise 35.9%, “growing its earnings faster than other leading global online travel companies,” Priceline stated.

Kaufer’s top-compensation status was no longer in doubt when the company granted him stock options worth more than $38 million in 2013. The caveat is that he can’t expect a repeat soon — Kaufer isn’t eligible for another such equity award until the Summer of 2017.

When it came to his cash bonus, Kaufer received $450,000, which was 90% of what he was eligible to receive.

Expedia’s Khosrowshahi

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was the only CEO among the roster of U.S.-based and publicly listed online travel companies to see his 2013 compensation plummet, in his case by 51%. Khosrowshahi’s total compensation in 2012 was $15.3 million, compared with $7.46 million in 2013.

Khosrowshahi saw his option awards decline in 2013; he received no stock awards compared with nearly $3.7 million in 2012, and his bonus in 2013 fell to $1.5 million, from $3 million a year earlier.

In the SEC filing detailing Khosrowshahi’s 2013 compensation, Expedia Inc. stated that his annual cash bonus declined in 2013 primarily due to Expedia’s weaker performance in 2013 versus 2012.

Expedia stated that Khosrowshahi earned his $1.5 million cash bonus based on the acquisition of Trivago, the strategic marketing agreement with Travelocity, and the progress in its Expedia Traveler Preference program.

Barney Harford at Orbitz Worldwide 

Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford saw his 2013 total compensation jump 36.5% to $5.26 million as total shareholder return came in at 164%.

Harford’s compensation package included $1.65 million as part of a non-equity incentive plan.

In addition to the banner year in total shareholder return in 2013 for Orbitz Worldwide, with brands including Orbitz, eBookers and HotelClub, among others, the company’s self-described “strong financial performance” included a 9% revenue increase, a 12% jump in adjusted EBITDA, and 18% growth in total room nights, up from just 3% in 2012.

Sabre’s Sam Gilliland

Rounding out the field in CEO compensation at online travel companies was Sam Gilliland, who was chairman and CEO of Sabre Holdings, and earned a little more than $3 million in fiscal 2013. Gilliland left those two posts on August 15, 2013, and was replaced by Tom Klein as CEO and Larry Kellner as chairman.

Sabre executed an IPO last month, and Gilliland remains on the board.

Klein’s total compensation in fiscal 2013 wasn’t detailed in Sabre’s S-1 statement, pre-IPO.

Online Travel CEO Compensation 2013

CompanyCEOSalaryBonusStock AwardsOption AwardsOtherTotal CompensationChange 2013 vs. 2012
TripAdvisorStephen Kaufer$500,000$450,000n/a$38,054,126$10,101$39,014,227510.20%
Priceline GroupJeffery Boyd$550,000n/a$800,326n/a$6,507,974$15,058,30046%
Expedia Inc.Dara Khosrowshahi$1,000,000$1,500,000n/a$4,395,463$571,578$7,467,041-51.20%
Orbitz WorldwideBarney Harford$825,000n/a$2,763,750n/a$1,677,164$5,265,91436.50%
SabreMichael Gilliland$730,769n/an/an/a$2,334,105$3,064,874n/a

Note: Use the slider to scroll and see full column view.

Source: Securities and Exchange Commission filings

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Tags: compensation, executives, expedia, orbitz, priceline, sabre, tripadvisor

Photo credit: TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer did pretty well for himself and the company in 2013: His total compensation of $39 million outpaced all of his online travel rivals. It was no contest. TripAdvisor

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