Photo/IllutrationSony Corp. Chairman Kazuo Hirai, left, and President Kenichiro Yoshida (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The number of board members whose compensation totaled 100 million yen (about $902,000) or more among listed companies whose fiscal year ends in March exceeded 500 for the first time in the latest fiscal year.

The total number stood at 538, up 72 from the fiscal year that ended in March 2017, credit research agency Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. reported on July 2.

The number of companies that paid compensation of 100 million yen or more to at least one board member increased by 17 to 240, also the largest ever, it said.

The credit research agency surveyed figures released by June 29 by listed companies whose fiscal year ended in March. The total number of 538 board members was about 1.8 times larger than that of five years ago.

Among the 538 board members, Kazuo Hirai, chairman of Sony Corp., earned the highest amount of 2.71 billion yen. He served as president and chief executive officer in the fiscal year that ended in March 2018. At the end of the year, however, he stepped down from those executive positions to become chairman.

Because of that, retirement benefits were added to his compensation. As a result, his total remuneration tripled from the 910 million yen of the previous fiscal year.

In the fiscal year that ended in March 2017, Nikesh Arora, vice president of SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG), earned the highest amount of about 10.3 billion yen.

In the fiscal year that ended in March 2018, foreigners were also conspicuous in the ranking of top earners as board members. Of the top 50, 11 were foreigners.

From SBG, four were ranked in the top 10. Of the four, three were foreigners, including vice chairman Ronald Fisher, who received 2.01 billion yen and was ranked the second highest.

Meanwhile, Christophe Weber, president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., which decided to purchase Irish drugmaker Shire Plc. for about 6.8 trillion yen, earned 1.21 billion yen and was ranked fifth.

Didier Leroy, vice president of Toyota Motor Corp., earned 1.02 billion yen and was ranked eighth. The amount was nearly triple that of Akio Toyoda, president of the automaker.

Meanwhile, at Mitsubishi Electric Corp., 22 board members earned 100 million yen or more. The figure was the largest among the surveyed companies.

That was followed by Hitachi Ltd., Fanuc Corp., Tokyo Electron Ltd. and Sony in that order. Manufacturing companies occupied the highest positions of the ranking.

In the fiscal year ending in March 2018, manufacturing companies whose overseas sales ratios are high achieved good business performances. As a result, they produced many board members who took home 100 million yen or more.

“Worldwide competition is under way to acquire capable company operators. In the United States and Europe, companies pay high amounts of remuneration to obtain (good) human resources. The method is spreading to part of Japanese firms,” said an analyst at Tokyo Shoko Research.

Remuneration paid to board members includes not only basic compensation and bonuses but also stock options, which are the right to buy shares of their companies, and retirement benefits.

Following are the top 10 earners of the companies whose fiscal year ended in March 2018 (Titles are as of now):

1. Kazuo Hirai, chairman of Sony Corp., 2.71 billion yen

2. Ronald Fisher, vice chairman of SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG), 2.01 billion yen

3. Marcelo Claure, vice president of SBG, 1.38 billion yen

4. Rajeev Misra, vice president of SBG, 1.23 billion yen

5. Christophe Weber, president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., 1.21 billion yen

6. Kinya Seto, president of Lixil Group Corp., 1.12 billion yen

7. Ryota Akazawa, former president of Fuso Chemical Co., 1.03 billion yen

8. Didier Leroy, vice president of Toyota Motor Corp., 1.02 billion yen

9. Kenichiro Yoshida, president of Sony, 890 million yen

10. Ken Miyauchi, a director of SBG, 860 million yen