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The 10 Greediest People of the Year

They came, they saw, they took it all. Welcome to the world where thieves have no honor, and those who hone their talents hammering the rest of us are lavishly rewarded.

Hard times can be good times -- for the aggressively avaricious. Where others see pain, they see opportunity. In desperation, they delight. The grimmer the economic outlook, the more ghastly their grabbing.

And who grabbed the most outrageously in 2010? We offer below our annual take on America's ten greediest of the year.

10/ Nick Saban: A coach's fabulous crimson ride

America’s college football coaches seem to have made an end run around the Great Recession. In 2006, only 10 of the about 120 big-time college football coaches took home at least $2 million a year. The 2010 total: 38.

The king of them all: the University of Alabama’s Nick Saban, with a 2010 takehome at $6,087,349, six times the college football coaching average. Only five coaches in all of professional sports will this year make more than Saban.

Forbes has labeled Saban the “most powerful coach in sports,” and his many perks -- everything from two cars to a contract clause that lets him exit Alabama at any time without taking a financial penalty -- amply confirm that assessment.

Financial penalties, meanwhile, are abounding throughout the rest of Alabama's public sector. Budget cuts have forced some colleges in the state to up tuition as much as 23 percent. The state’s overall education budget dropped 9.5 percent in 2010, and local school boards now see no way to “avoid major layoffs.”

Saban, for his part, has been blasting the “greed” of sports agents who sneak college athletes cash in hopes of cashing out big themselves when the athletes turn pro. In August, Saban called these agents no better “than a pimp.”

A pimp, responded one national sports writer, displays a “willingness to physically exploit young people” the pimp claims “to protect” and, “above all, a love of money.” That definition, continued Fox Sports analyst Mark Kriegel, just might fit Nick Saban, Alabama’s most “highly paid state employee.”

9/ Howard Schultz: How to brew a bigger fortune

A decade ago, after running coffee giant Starbucks for 13 years, Howard Schultz stepped down as CEO to take life a bit easier as the company’s “chief global strategist.” Early in 2008, with Starbucks struggling mightily in the marketplace, Schultz took back his CEO slot.

The struggles continued. Massive layoffs would soon slash the chain's workforce by 19 percent. Schultz would feel the pain. He started trumpeting “the shared sacrifice I want to make” -- and pledged to take almost no personal salary.

But CEOs, wink, wink, only get a small fraction of their total pay from straight salary. The Starbucks corporate board, behind the sacrificing scenes, was actually turbocharging the Schultz pay package with a mammoth grant of stock options, delivered at just the moment Starbucks shares were hovering at a rock-bottom low.

Starbucks valued those options, at the time of their granting, at $12.4 million. By May 2010, after a Wall Street mini-boom, the value of the shares had soared to $46.8 million. More good news for Schultz: He scored another $26 million last year exercising options he had been granted way back in 1998 and 1999.

And what about Starbucks shareholders? Those who bought their shares in 2007, right before the Great Recession, still have no gain to show for their investment.

8/ Daniel Akerson: Competing at a mythic level

The chief executive of General Motors since this past September, Daniel Akerson, earlier this month gave his first “high-profile speech” as the automaker’s CEO. The prime takeaway from his address? The feds, said Akerson, need to ease up on the bailout pay limits still in effect for his fellow top GM executives.

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