WASHINGTON: Compensation received by chief executives of the biggest US companies surged 11 per cent over the past 12 months - to US$9.3 million (S$11.5 million) on average, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Citing a study conducted for the newspaper by management consultancy Hay Group, The Journal said the increase was largely due to decisions by company boards to reward chief executives (CEOs) for strong profit and share-price growth with bigger bonuses and stock grants.

Notably, companies' profits and share prices increased even more than CEO compensation. Net income for companies rose by a median of 17 per cent, while shareholders at those companies enjoyed a median return, including dividends, of 18 per cent.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman topped the list after receiving compensation valued at US$84.3 million, more than double his 2009 pay, the report said.

Mr Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle, took second place, according to The Journal. Long ranked among the highest-paid chiefs, he received compensation valued at US$68.6 million for the year ended last May 31.

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves landed the No. 3 spot with compensation valued at US$53.9 million.

CEOs of media companies claimed four of the Top 10 spots: Mr Dauman at Viacom, plus the chiefs of CBS, Walt Disney and Time Warner.

The survey covered the 350 biggest companies that filed their statements between May 1 last year, and the end of last month.

The rise followed a year in which pay for the top boss was flat at these companies.

The Journal measured CEO pay by total direct compensation, which includes salary, bonuses and the granted value of stock, stock options and other long-term incentives given for service. It excludes the value of exercised stock options and the vesting of restricted stock.

For the surveyed CEOs, the sharpest pay gains came via bonuses, which soared 19.7 per cent as profits recovered, especially in some hard-hit industries.

Several chief executives experienced sizable drops in pay. Occidental Petroleum's Ray Irani, who retired on Friday, saw his compensation for last year shrink 71 per cent to US$14.9 million.

The decline mainly grew out of a shareholder backlash that prompted the big oil concern to set a new policy last year, cutting its longtime leader's maximum compensation by nearly three quarters.