The effect of CEO tenure on CEO compensation

Yudan Zheng (School of Business, Public Administration and Information Sciences, Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Publication date: 31 August 2010



The paper aims to study the effect of tenure on the structure of CEO compensation. The relation between CEO compensation and CEO tenure provides a good testing bed for many effects: the managerial power effect, the portfolio consideration effect, the learning effect, and the career concern effect.


Tobit regressions were run of the percentage of equity‐based compensation on CEO tenure and the effect of tenure compared between inside CEOs and outside CEOs.


It was found that the percentage of equity‐based compensation increases during the early years of tenure for outside CEOs, and decreases during the later years of tenure for inside CEOs. Before they are tenured, outside CEOs have significantly higher and faster growing percentage of equity‐based compensation than inside CEOs. Furthermore, the portfolio consideration effect and the learning effect are the major effects in explaining the effect of tenure on the compensation structure.

Practical implications

The evidence that boards of directors take into account the CEOs’ holdings of equity incentives, the types of CEOs, and their years on tenure to adjust the structure of CEO compensation indicates that firms should, and do, try to optimize their CEO compensation structure on the basis of firm‐specific or CEO‐specific characteristics. It is suggested that there is no simple formulaic approach to governance reform.


The paper contributes to the literature by studying and explaining the different patterns of compensation structure over CEO tenure between inside CEOs and outside CEOs.



Zheng, Y. (2010), "The effect of CEO tenure on CEO compensation", Managerial Finance, Vol. 36 No. 10, pp. 832-859.

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