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Zaslav Gets His Reward

1/23/2010 2:00 AM Eastern

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, coming off a year in which the cable network outperformed most of its peers, reaped a $34 million payday as a result of a stock appreciation-rights plan that kicked in earlier this month, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the SEC filing Jan. 20, Zaslav received appreciation rights for about 1.9 million shares of Discovery stock at prices ranging from $14.34 each and $22.91 each on Jan. 15. That stock was automatically sold the same day at prices ranging from $31.69 each to $34.86 apiece, reaping the CEO a profit of $33.9 million.

Some of those appreciation rights were awarded back in 2007, according to Discovery. The units automatically pay out annually — Zaslav does not take any action to exercise them — and then they replenish at the stock's trading price on that date.

Under Zaslav's watch, Discovery Communications stock more than doubled its price in 2009 (from $14.65 to $30.67) and was the lone publicly traded ad-supported cable network to show domestic advertising-sales growth in each of the first three quarters of 2009. Zaslav also is overseeing the creation of the Oprah Winfrey Network (set to launch next January) and is pushing the partnership with toy maker Hasbro to form the Hub kids' channel which will bow later this year. In September, Discovery signed a new five-year employment deal with the CEO that could bring him more than $55 million over the life of the contract.

September