AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron Doubles Compensation in Pandemic Year

NEWS ANALYSIS — 2020 was a terrible year for AMC Theatres. It was a great year financially for CEO Adam Aron and other executives. Corporate parent AMC Entertainment March 5 disclosed in a regulatory filing that it paid Aron $20.9 million in salary, bonuses and stock options. That’s more than double the $9.7 million in total compensation Aron received in 2019, and $9.5 million paid in 2018 — both years when there was no pandemic shuttering most of the world’s largest exhibitor’s screens.

CFO Sean Goodman earned $4.2 million in compensation, and John McDonald, executive president of U.S. operations, made $3.4 million.

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Aron’s compensation included $1.1 million in base salary, bonuses totaling $5 million and $14.8 million in stock options. The bonuses, which included a $3.75 million check just last week, were cited by the board of directors “to recognize the extraordinary efforts of employees to maintain the company’s business and preserve stockholder value during the COVID-19 pandemic … and incentivize management and employees during the continuing and unprecedented difficult business conditions.”

While Aron and senior management did their jobs shoring up AMC finances and reworking theater leases, apparently, fiscal incentivization only flows uphill.

Goodman, McDonald and three other executives split another $1 million in bonuses. Meanwhile, most of the company’s 26,000 employees, including theater workers hailed by the board, were furloughed through much of last year without pay when AMC was forced to shutdown due to COVID-19. While the chain has re-opened about 25% of its theaters, it’s unclear how many of the idled staff have been rehired.

Notably, AMC’s non-employee board — which authorized the executive compensation — didn’t work for free either in 2020. The eight members walked off with fees and stock options ranging from $182,000 to $251,000 each. Significant fiscal largesse despite the fact AMC teetered on the edge of bankruptcy throughout much of the year.

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