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Who Makes How Much

An impertinent look at other people's paychecks.


Illustration by Christopher Sleboda  

Salary envy and its more loathsome twin, salary smugness, are the yin and yang of New York life, the engine that drives the city. But face it: Unless you’re actually steaming open the mail, most of what you think you know about what your neighbor makes is little more than fantasy. That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a voluminous and eccentric list of hundreds of New Yorkers’ salaries, from the hedge-funder who pulled down more than a billion last year to the Chinese-food deliveryman making four figures (plus tips). There’s Calvin Klein and a guy who sells knockoffs on the street, a cantor and an imam, a first-year assistant district attorney and Sam Waterston, an honorary veteran of the D.A.’s office.

The first such list published in this magazine, in 1972, offers a glimpse into the city’s misty, pre-Morgenthau past; Bob makes his first appearance on the 1975 list, and he is the only person who holds the same title now as he did then. Another landmark who has stood the test of time even longer than Morgie: Hugh Hefner, the sole listee from 1972 to recur in this issue. Back then, Hef banked $303,847 wearing the hats of chairman, president, editor, and—whew!—publisher of Playboy Enterprises. These days, he takes in $983,000 merely for his editor-in-chief duties. No one in 1972 even approached seven figures; the highest figure on the list was the $425,160 taken home by Meshulan Riklis, chairman and president of Rapid-American Corp. and ex-husband of Pia Zadora.

Even in 2005, it’s still considered bad manners in most circles to volunteer one’s salary. So putting the list together was a challenge. One local-TV weatherman summed up many opinions when he said, “Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, oy vey! You know what four oy veys means? It means we don’t talk about that kind of thing, and I’m not going to tell you. It’s personal.” And he was right, of course, though that didn’t stop us. Corporate proxy statements, printed news reports (we are most heavily indebted to Forbes and to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine), city payrolls, nonprofits’ tax-return filings—those were easy. And sometimes asking people straight-up worked. Donald Trump Jr., for one, was happy to declare his income (like father, like son), and after some discussion, we decided to take his word for it. One squeamish real-estate broker gave her name and then panicked, demanding in a series of phone calls of escalating hysteria that we remove her last name. See Jennifer’s shame (minus, alas, her surname).

Some of the numbers, inevitably, are guesses. But they’re educated guesses, at least, based on multiple industry sources. Many artists and entertainers, for instance, were unenthusiastic about commenting on their earnings (as were their agents). In such cases, we relied on the informed speculation of insiders—though Andy Warhol’s earnings, to cite just one example, are controlled by the nonprofit Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and are correct to the dollar. Some sources took our questions as an opportunity for sniping; explaining Maggie Gyllenhaal’s per-movie price, one studio executive kindly offered, “She’s a no-one.”

None of the figures includes perks—not a banker’s private jet, a university president’s housing, or an editor’s Town Car. This is about cash. Note that some of the CEO salaries may seem strange: They reflect salaries, bonuses, and exercised stock options only—so Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons is listed as earning $23.5 million, of which about $9 million represent options that he cashed out. All figures are the most recent available, and there’s a chance, of course, that some numbers have moved up or down since they were reported. We won’t pretend that this list will make you sleep any better—but at least you’ll know what to request next time you’re due for a raise.

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