Four Houston drillers boosted CEO pay last year

Four Houston drillers boosted pay packages for top executives last year as oil prices recovered from the worst crash in a generation.

The CEOs of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., EOG Resources, Noble Energy and Cabot Oil & Gas got more in stock awards and cash incentives last year, raising their total pay even as their base salaries remained the same as the year before, recent regulatory filings show.

Most of Houston’s public oil companies still haven’t disclosed how much they paid executives last year. But compensation consultants say many exploration companies, like the four that have already filed regulatory documents, increased pay for top bosses in 2016 as oil prices doubled to more than $50 a barrel.

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“We tend to see compensation ride the commodity price,” said Josh Henke, a director at the consultancy Compensation & Benefits Solutions in Houston.

The two-year oil bust forced more than 200 North American energy companies into bankruptcy and put more than 100,000 people out of work across Texas. But oil companies typically maintain pay levels for executives as an incentive to stay on the job even in tumultuous years, the consultants said.

Crude prices dropped to the lowest point in more than a decade in February, leaving drillers in a painful financial crunch. But the market recovered, and energy stock prices surged.

“They had a really good year,” said Chris Crawford, president of Houston consultancy Longnecker & Associates. “You had a bounce back in oil prices, you saw companies restructure their balance sheets and move assets into less expensive places to drill.”

The stock-market value of Anadarko, EOG, Noble and Cabot climbed by a combined $40 billion last year, even though they lost a combined $5.6 billion in income.

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Anadarko CEO Al Walker’s total pay rose $1.6 million to $18.7 million last year, with about half of the increase coming from an $800,000 increase in his performance-based cash incentives. The other half came from the accounting value of Walker’s retirement program, which fluctuates year to year.

The executive’s base salary edged lower by $50,000 to $1.3 million, while stock and option awards increased by about $75,000 to $11.2 million.

Meanwhile, EOG Resources increased pay for CEO William Thomas by about $2.7 million, up to $10.5 million in 2016. The company kept his base salary flat at $925,000, but increased stock awards by $3.6 million to $7.5 million.

Noble Energy raised the total pay for CEO David Stover by $2.8 million to $10.1 million. Much of the increase came from a $2.6 million increase in stock awards, while his base salary stayed flat at $950,000.

At Cabot Oil & Gas, CEO Dan Dinges’ total pay rose by $2.3 million to $11.3 million. His stock awards climbed by $1.8 million and cash incentives increased by more than $600,000. His base pay stayed the same at about $900,000.

Anadarko, EOG, Noble and Cabot declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.