• Recently published information about the record compensation paid to the CEOs of Delivery Hero and Linde turns what was previously a significant slump into a substantial increase
  • The CEOs of both companies earned as much as the next 14 DAX CEOs combined in the compensation ranking
  • The average compensation for DAX CEOs jumped by 14.6% to an average of €8.5 million – a new record – while profits saw a sharp decline

Frankfurt am Main, April 29, 2021. Delivery Hero and Linde, which both only recently published their annual reports, have taken first and second place in the rankings of DAX CEO compensation for fiscal 2020. According to Delivery Hero’s annual report published yesterday, the total compensation received by the company’s CEO amounts to €45.7 million. According to the (comparable) IFRS financial statement, the figure for Linde is €53.4 million.

“Linde is effectively a US company with a US CEO, who receives compensation in line with US market practice. Delivery Hero is one of the most successful ‘unicorns’ of the start-up scene. So the CEOs of two unconventional companies in the traditional DAX index take the top spots in the compensation rankings for fiscal 2020,” sums up Michael H. Kramarsch, corporate governance expert and hkp//group Managing Partner, referring to the fact that the figures have entered a whole new dimension: “When totted up, both CEOs’ compensation exceeds the compensation paid to the CEOs in the top half of the DAX index combined!”

Now that the annual reports have been published, there aren’t just two new record-high compensation values for Germany in the DAX; these two companies have completely changed the picture with respect to the average figures too. With 28 DAX annual reports published as at March 29, 2021, average CEO compensation fell by 28% to €5.3 million. When Linde and Delivery Hero are included, a brand-new overall picture of DAX CEO compensation emerges, created by a 14.6% increase to an average of €8.5 million.

These are the findings of the update to the hkp/// group analysis entitled “Annual Report Evaluation Management Board Compensation DAX 2020”. The analysis is based on data from the 2020 annual reports of 29 DAX-listed companies and from Linde’s IFRS financial statement for fiscal 2020.

USA and start-up shake up the DAX

The authors of the study argue that Delivery Hero’s compensation package is a prime example of performance-based start-up compensation. In 2020, the CEO received only €350,000 in basic compensation. Additionally share-based compensation from previous years amounting to €45 million was paid. In line with US Practice, the high compensation of Linde’s CEO’s is also a result of the realization of share-based long-term compensation. €47 million of the 53,4 Million of the CEO’s compensation result from this compensation component.

So, ultimately, the variable long-term compensation of the two best payed CEO’s has a crucial impact on the average total DAX CEO compensation. Although the CEOs’ average annual variable compensation dropped by around -35% in 2020 (March 2021: -38%) in this respect, the average, (mostly) share-based multi-year variable compensation was up by around +53% (March 2021: -41%).

“We were surprised by the compensations at this level too. But we see two effects that have been taking root for some time: Linde gives us a glimpse into current American compensation practices, where the corresponding values are many times higher than in Germany. And anyone delighted by successful start-ups like Delivery Hero must also accept the compensation practices adopted by such successful entrepreneurs,” emphasizes Michael H. Kramarsch, the author of the hkp/// group study.

Regine Siepmann, Partner and Head of Board Services at hkp/// group, added: “The data from the two companies recently added to the study proves that the DAX is less of a homogeneous field of companies than ever, and that internationalization and the new economy are establishing hitherto unknown levels of compensation in Germany too.” She believes that German industrial companies should not view this development as a blueprint for opening the compensation floodgates now.

Apart from Delivery Hero and Linde, the two companies with unconventionally high levels of CEO compensation, the authors of the hkp/// group study come to the conclusion that the DAX CEO compensation analyzed for the past fiscal year does more than just reflect the business results in the sense of functioning pay for performance; it also reflects individual compensation waivers during the pandemic. “What makes 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, so special is the fact that absolutely all time compensation records and record results have gone hand in hand with compensation waivers and the threat of corporate insolvencies,” sums up Michael H. Kramarsch, Managing Partner at hkp/// group.

The final DAX CEO compensation ranking

Top three compensation levels for DAX CEOs in 2020

Total compensation


€53.4 million

Delivery Hero

€45.7 million

Deutsche Post

€10.0 million

Bottom three compensation levels for DAX CEOs in 2020



€2.8 million


  €2.2 million


  €2.1 million

Fig.: The top and bottom total compensation levels for DAX CEOs in fiscal 2020 (GCGC table of compensation actually paid, CEO in office for the full fiscal year)

About the hkp/// group analysis

The hkp/// group analysis Annual Report Evaluation Management Board Compensation DAX analyzes the compensation of CEOs of companies that are listed in the DAX index. It is based on the compensation information that the companies publish in their annual reports.
The reporting date chosen for the analysis (end of the first quarter) follows recommendation F.2 set out in the German Corporate Governance Code (GCGC), which states that the consolidated financial statements and the group management report should be publicly accessible within 90 days of the end of the fiscal year. In accordance with the recommendations set out in the German Stock Corporation Act (AktG) and the German Corporate Governance Code (GCGC), the analysis incorporates all elements of compensation, including pensions and fringe benefits and represents the compensation actually paid.

About the hkp/// group

The hkp/// group is a partner-led, international consulting firm. Being accomplished transformation consultants, hkp/// group partners are respected leaders of innovation in HR and advise large and medium-sized international companies and start-ups that they develop customized and practical solutions with. hkp/// group partners have many years of international consulting and business experience. They are recognized on the market as being experts in executive compensation, board services, performance and talent management, HR strategy and transformation, and HR and compensation benchmarking. Our partners are appreciated as competent contacts by supervisory and executive boards, management boards and company management teams, as well as HR managers and specialists.
With over 700,000 data records on compensation from over 60 countries and all industries, the hkp/// group is one of the leading providers of compensation comparisons. In the field of executive compensation alone, we offer access to compensation data for 20,000 people in over 3,000 European companies (boardpay.com).



Author Regine Siepmann

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