During this time of year everyone worries about being thought of as naughty or nice. For children being on Santa's nice list mean receiving a plethora of toys under the Christmas tree, but for larger, older kids (i.e. working adults), being on the nice list means getting a big holiday bonus and the possibility of doubling (or better) your yearly earnings.
Most S&P companies don't report their bonus figures until the early spring, but there are about 60 companies on the list that have fiscal years that end earlier, meaning they do report their bonuses before the New Year. This gives everyone else a chance to get a glimpse of what Santa has put under the Christmas tree for the CEOs on the "nice" list.
ABC News spoke with Aaron Boyd, head of research for Equilar, a company that tracks what top executives are paid, and he said there are two things that are impressive about this year's top CEO bonuses. One, they are really big, and two, bonuses are now more dependant on how well a company performed in the past fiscal year, meaning if your company lost money and did poorly, CEO bonuses will tend to not be as large. "Companies are moving away from payout based purely on the discretion of the board. The trend is toward bonuses that are tied more closely to performance," Boyd told ABC News.
Here are the top winners on this year's nice list, making super large bonuses.
William R. Johnson, chairman and president, H.J. Heinz: $8,589,063
Who knew ketchup could be so lucrative? Well, for this CEO, his bonus for 2010 comes in at $8,589,063. This is an almost 18 percent increase over what he received in 2009. Johnson has been with the ketchup giant since 1982, has helped to expand their ketchup kingdom overseas, especially in China, where he was awarded the Marco Polo Award, the highest business honor China bestows on foreigners. A bonus this large makes you rethink the importance of condiments.
Lawrence J. Ellison, chief executive officer, Oracle: $6,453,254
This computer guru and competitive sports enthusiast received a $6,453,254 bonus this year, an almost 80 percent increase over what he received last year. Ellison founded the business software and hardware company in 1977 and has successfully increased sales year after year. You'll think twice before calling this guy a computer geek.
John T. Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems: $4,600,000
While Chambers' bonus of $4, 600,000 only earns him the No. 3 ranking, his bonuses has increased over 125 percent compared to 2009, and his computer and telecom networking company has continued to increase its sales and net income from the previous fiscal year. We all could learn something from the way Chambers -- An expert in workplace learning -- runs a business.
Mark G. Parker, president and CEO, Nike: $4,441,875
Parker first began working at Nike in 1979, but has only been at the helm of this athletic outfitter since 2006. But, in that time, he has successfully expanded Nike's brands and increased Nike's commitment to corporate responsibility while increasing sales and raising the company's net income almost 30 percent. For his hard work, he has been rewarded with a $4,441,875 bonus -- a mind-blowing 393.5 percent increase over his 2009 bonus. Talk about just doing it: This CEO is definitely "working out" as the leader of his company.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corp: $4,368,800
Rounding out the top five is media mogul Murdoch. Since he began his publishing career in 1952 with just one family-owned newspaper in his native Australia, Murdoch has taken the states by storm and his list of accolades now includes The New York Post, TV Guide, The Daily (an iPad-only newspaper), DIRECTV and FOX Entertainment Group. Stuffed into this CEO's stocking this year was a $4,368,800 bonus. Don't think of him as greedy though, because this year's bonus is almost 20 percent less than what he was given last year, and at age 79, this media man was still able to increase News Corp.'s net income in 2010, after a $3.31 billion loss in 2009.
Obviously it goes without saying that these CEO bonuses are way above what average workers receive and even well above what most CEOs get paid at year's end; but all of these highly-bonused CEOs are well known, in the spotlight, and are also the ones who have high base salaries to begin with.
Also of note is the fact that many top-paid CEOs of well-known companies, such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are choosing to take smaller bonuses this year than in previous years to avoid public ridicule -- proving that concern over perception regarding being naughty or nice really does have an effect on people of all ages, from the youngest of children to the oldest of CEOs.