Markets

Are highly paid corporate superstars worth it?

BY Margareta Pagano   /  13 July 2017

Where’s the outrage ? The howls of fury that he’s not worth it, that he’s being paid squillions more than his fellow workers ? Not a whisper, not a squeak. No one dares say a bad word about the news that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is about to strike a deal that will make him one of the most expensive footballers on the planet. Maybe Cristiano Ronaldo, but then he earns more than Messi from sponsorship.

Word from Camp Nou is that Messi is being offered a four year contract which will pay him between £500,000 and £1m a week, giving him a cool £54.8m a year or £220m over four year. Add on match bonuses and sponsorship deals and he might get nearly as much again.

What’s so intriguing about Messi’s deal is the way Barca’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, says the centre striker is worth it because of what he does for the team and for the socios – the club members – who own Barca. The Argentine not only pulls in the crowds but has 89m Facebook likes and 75m followers on Instagram: that means more advertising, sponsorship and kudos for the club.

More to the point, Barca puts a monetary value on Messi’s contribution. Of the £615m revenue for the last season, Messi is thought to be responsible for 20% of the total. So the business case is transparent – Barca is paying up to £50m a year for a talent that brings in £120m of income.

Chief executives around the world must be feeling sick with jealousy over Messi’s deal-making skills, and not just the numbers but the way he is being feted for his talent. There are only a few CEOs who can compete with football’s mouth watering numbers. Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP made £70m last year while in the US Ginni Rometty of IBM cruised home with $32m.