Charlotte’s largest companies — and the millionaires who run them

Plus: Rural county hopes to lure Charlotte Pipe; Wells banker admits laundering drug money; Sinking radio ratings blamed on 'over-playing of Pink Floyd'

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Big companies, big paydays

The Charlotte region is home to a lot of big companies. A few are like Bank of America, with billions in revenue and thousands of local workers. Most of the large companies with headquarters in the area, though, have smaller offices here that manage far-flung operations.

Fortune magazine last week released its annual ranking of U.S. public companies, and the 14 companies in the Charlotte region that are in the top 1,000 show some of the diversity of the area’s economy. Sure, Bank of America is at the top, but other companies on the list are ones you rarely hear about, from makers of packaging and paper products to chemical and aerospace companies.

At the same time, these companies in the last couple months have released the details of their executives’ compensation for 2018.

Here’s a mash-up of the Fortune list, ranked by company revenue, with the pay info from securities filings. You can see which Charlotte-area companies are big – and which have bosses making the big bucks (spoiler alert: all of them):

Fortune 1000 rank, description, 2018 revenue, CEO and median worker pay in 2018:

  • #25. Bank of America. Charlotte bank. Revenue: $110.6B. Compensation: CEO Brian Moynihan, $22.8M. Median employee: $92,040.

  • #42. Lowe’s. Mooresville home-improvement retailer. Revenue: $71.3B. Compensation: CEO Marvin Ellison, $14.3M. Median employee: $22,921.

  • #120. Nucor. Charlotte steelmaker. Revenue: $25B. Compensation: CEO John Ferriola, $15.6M. Median employee: $106,097.

  • #126. Duke Energy. Charlotte power utility. Revenue: $24.1B. Compensation: CEO Lynn Good, $14M. Median employee: $117,132.

  • #316. Sonic Automotive. Charlotte car retailer. Revenue: $9.9B. Compensation: CEO Bruton Smith, $3.3M. Median employee: $51,600.

  • #342. Brighthouse Financial. Charlotte insurance company. Revenue: $8.9B. Compensation: CEO Eric Steigerwalt, $15.6M. Median employee: $123,178.

  • #511. Domtar. Fort Mill paper-products maker. Revenue: $5.5B. Compensation: CEO John Williams, $8M. Median employee: $77,034.

  • #555. Sealed Air. Charlotte packaging maker. Revenue: $4.7B. Compensation: CEO Edward Doheny, $8.9M. Median employee: $53,068.

  • #563. Coca-Cola Consolidated. Charlotte drink distributor. Revenue: $4.6B. Compensation: CEO Frank Harrison, $11.6M. Median employee: $44,133.

  • #569. CommScope. Hickory communications-equipment maker. $4.6B. Compensation: CEO Marvin Edwards, $8.9M. Median employee (includes part-time/seasonal): $12,917.

  • #590. Jeld-Wen. Charlotte building-materials maker. Revenue: $4.3B. Compensation: CEO Gary Michel, $8.7M. Median employee: $50,593.

  • #702. Albemarle Corp. Charlotte chemical maker. Revenue: $3.4B. Compensation: CEO Luther Kissam, $6.7M. Median employee: $78,867.

  • #876. Curtiss-Wright. Davidson aerospace company. Revenue: $2.4B. Compensation: CEO David Adams, $7.5M. Median employee: $57,884.

  • #962. SPX Flow. Charlotte industrial-machinery maker. Revenue: $2.1B. Compensation: CEO Marcus Michael, $4.9M. Median employee: $60,041.

The top 1,000 companies in the U.S. each had 2018 revenues of about $2B+, which means that several notable Charlotte-area companies failed to make the cut. Among them:

  • SPX Corp., Charlotte industrial manufacturer. Revenue: $1.5B. Compensation: CEO Eugene Lowe, $5.3M. Median employee: $63,232.

  • Cato, Charlotte clothing retailer. Revenue: $830M. Compensation: CEO John Cato, $4.3M. Median employee: $28,543.

  • LendingTree, Charlotte financial-services marketer. Revenue: $765M. Compensation: CEO Doug Lebda, $42.3M. Median employee: $109,139.

  • Speedway Motorsports, Charlotte race-track operator. Revenue: $462M. Compensation: CEO Bruton Smith, $2.5M. Median employee: $42,895

On the CEO compensation figures, those are the numbers companies reported. They typically include salary, bonuses, stock awards and other perks – like personal use of company jets, financial counseling and relocation expenses. It’s true that because of the changing value of stocks, the compensation figures above might not be precisely the amount of money the execs receive, but it’s about the best that can reasonably be estimated.

You’ll notice…

Highest pay: As the Ledger reported a month ago, LendingTree’s Doug Lebda took home a $42.3M compensation package, almost all of it in stock, which was easily enough to top the pay of other local execs – even though his company was not in the 15 biggest in the Charlotte region. The funny thing is that Lebda’s company isn’t anywhere close to being one of the biggest in the country, so his pay package avoids ranking on many national lists of executive pay. Last week, for instance, the Wall Street Journal ranked the CEO pay of the S&P 500 (paywall). If LendingTree were included, Lebda’s compensation would have ranked #5.

The next two highest-paid locally are with a couple of the biggest firms in Charlotte: Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan at $22.8M, followed by Nucor’s John Ferriola at $15.6M. (Ferriola edged out Brighthouse Financial’s Eric Steigerwalt for that third-place spot by a mere $22,000.)

Lowest pay: The big-company leader most in the poorhouse is SPX Flow’s Marcus Michael, with $4.9M in 2018 compensation. (Note that Bruton Smith is on there twice with his two companies, and his pay totals $5.8M.)

Median employee pay: A few years ago, public companies had to start reporting the median pay of their workers. Locally, companies that listed median pay at $100,000+ were Nucor, Duke Energy, Brighthouse Financial and LendingTree. Good work if you can get it.

As far as the big companies headquartered here, it’s an impressive list that speaks to our economy’s diversity and serves as an important source of local philanthropy and employment. And success begets success: The list is also likely to grow next year when it reflects the arrival of Honeywell (now at #77) and the combination of SunTrust (#304) and BB&T (#246). In a post over the weekend, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance noted:

A major indicator of a city’s economic strength and stability is the presence of Fortune 1000 operations, and the Charlotte Region boasts several. Six Fortune 500 headquarters and a total of 14 Fortune 1000 headquarters call the region home.  More importantly, more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies have made a commitment to Charlotte by placing one or more of their facilities within the Charlotte region. 


What do the Louvre’s pyramid and the NASCAR Hall of Fame have in common?

Both were designed by award-winning architect I.M. Pei, who died last week at the age of 102.


Latest Wells Fargo black eye: Banker funneled cash to Mexican drug cartel

Wells Fargo just can’t seem to catch a break. It has been engulfed in scandals. Politicians forced out its CEO. And now this: One of the company’s personal bankers in San Diego has pleaded guilty to funneling money to Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel — in an operation that included dispatching couriers to cities including Charlotte to pick up duffel bags full of cash.

Here’s the Justice Department news release from last week:

Luis Fernando Figueroa of Tijuana pleaded guilty in federal court today to money laundering charges, admitting that he worked with others to launder and transfer money to Mexico through accounts he opened up at Wells Fargo as a personal banker. … 

According to court documents, the money laundering organization recruited individuals to serve as funnel account holders to open personal bank accounts at Wells Fargo Bank and other U.S. banks.  Figueroa, as a personal banker with Wells Fargo, admitted in his plea agreement that he knowingly opened personal bank accounts at Wells Fargo for the funnel account holders, knowing that those personal accounts would be used to launder funds to Mexico.

Other members of the money laundering organization, known as couriers, traveled to Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, Boston, New Jersey, and New York City to pick up bulk cash narcotics proceeds that ranged from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds. The couriers made contact with individuals holding the bulk cash in private residences or public places such as parking lots and retail stores.  The cash was typically concealed in shopping bags, duffel bags or shoeboxes. 

The operation laundered about $19.6M between 2014 and 2016, the DOJ said. It’s separate from a $160M settlement Wells Fargo predecessor Wachovia reached in 2010 over allegations the bank failed to stop money laundering by drug-runners from Mexico and Colombia.


Charlotte Pipe plant eyed by Stanly County

Stanly County, east of Charlotte, believes it has the edge in luring the century-old Charlotte Pipe & Foundry plant out of its spot near uptown.

Last month, news emerged that the General Assembly was working on an oddly specific bill that tailored economic incentives to a company that fits Charlotte Pipe’s description. That bill passed the legislature and was signed into law last week.

If you read the Stanly News & Press — and who among us doesn’t? — you get the feeling that the county thinks it has a good shot:

The bill would allow the business to qualify for the state’s Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund. It would apply to a company that has been operating in the state for more than 100 years, has invested at least $325 million, has at least 1,050 state employees and plans to relocate at least 400 employees to a Tier Two county with a population smaller than 63,000.

The county that seems to align with the bill’s specifications is Stanly County, which has roughly 62,000 people, according a July 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. Stanly is also classified as a Tier Two county.

The paper says the administrator for the town of Oakboro declined to comment but “did say a press release about this issue would come out in the coming weeks.” That’s called a tell.

Sources told the Biz Journal last month that Charlotte Pipe was also considering sites in South Carolina. Any worries about the city’s loss of 500 manufacturing jobs would quickly give way to speculation about the future of the Charlotte Pipe site, which occupies prime real estate across the John Belk Freeway from the Panthers’ stadium.

Pro tip: Don’t confuse Stanly County, which contains Albemarle and Oakboro, with the town of Stanley (with an “-ey”), which is in Gaston County.


N.C. adds 13,200 jobs in April, growth strong

New state employment figures came out Friday. The results: still looking good. The analysis from Wells Fargo’s economics team:

Nonfarm employment rose solidly in North Carolina during April, with employers adding 13,200 net new jobs. Hiring rose across most major industry categories and remains up solidly year-over-year, although the pace of job growth has recently slipped behind the nation. …

Economic growth throughout the state continues to improve. Real GDP rose 2.9% during 2018, the 12th fastest growth rate in the nation. Furthermore, the pace of GDP growth has now improved for three consecutive years.


Reader response

Ledger readers respond to recent articles:

Last week’s piece on Charlotte-area radio ratings brought out a lot of opinions:
  • “99.7 The Fox is down because of their incessant over-playing of Pink Floyd, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pink Floyd, but the program managers over there put the same 3-4 Floyd songs in the rotation over and over and over, so that anytime you turn on The Fox, one of those songs will come on within 10 minutes. There’s a huge catalogue of songs that are classic rock. Change it up a bit, people!”

  • “When 99.7 said Nirvana was an oldie the other day, I wanted to vomit lol. I’m old now.”

  • “Why listen to commercials when you have your own music on phone/iPod?”

  • “I have been looking for hard rock but cannot find any stations that play it. I can’t get rid of my SiriusXM because of it.”

  • “107.9 was down the most? Wow. Bob and Sheri / Matt and Ramona, what’s going on over there? I know you play the same songs over and over and over every two hours. You four pull this station along. You need to do what you do best.”

  • “Life begins at SiriusXM. It’s worth the investment. Terrestrial radio blows in comparison.”

  • “I can’t be the only one turned off by the outrageous amount of advertising, often in blocks of well over 5 minutes. And of course it’s mind-numbingly repetitive. WBT would shut down if erectile disfunction and its treatment were not a thing.”

  • “I still don’t understand how people think John Boy and Billy are funny — just because they talk in a Southern accent? Worst morning show ever, but somehow they are considered funny? I don’t get it.”

On Friday’s guest column handicapping the odds of major-league sports expansions in Charlotte:
  • “I never understood and will never understand why the Knights’ ballpark was designed to be too small for MLB.”

  • “Why wouldn’t a Charlotte team be competitive? Name one MLB team that has not given their fans a reason to cheer/hope in the present or the not-too-distant past? Kansas City, the least popular of TWO teams in a state far smaller with far less trajectory than NC, won the World Series.”

Have an opinion? Share it here.


In brief:

  • Bankers favor pot: 82% of bank executives believe banks should be able to serve businesses that sell marijuana, according to results of a survey reported in American Banker (last item). Even three out of four bankers in the South favored the move.

  • Best commencement speaker ever: Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith told graduates at Morehouse College that he would pay off their student loan debt, estimated at about $40M. (CNN)

  • Millennials in trouble: “American millennials are approaching middle age in worse financial shape than every living generation ahead of them, lagging behind baby boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment. … They have less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates and fewer children, according to new data that compare generations at similar ages.” (WSJ/paywall)

  • Experts are often wrong, experts say: Long but interesting read that explores how authorities are “by and large, horrific forecasters.” (Atlantic)

  • Google cuts off Huawai: Google’s suspension of business activity with the company “may be a ‘kill switch’ for the Chinese firm’s global smartphone ambition.” (CNBC)

  • Steele Creek called “next hot neighborhood”: Which means, naturally, that as the area grows, “don’t be surprised if breweries are in the mix.” (Agenda)


Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:

Trade fights batter stocks for second straight week

From the AP:

Stocks … notched their second-straight weekly loss as investors were whipsawed by contradictory reports on the Trump administration’s array of trade fights.

Technology and industrial companies dropped the most. The S&P hasn’t fallen for two consecutive weeks since last year, but it remains about 14% higher so far in 2019.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.comand let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.