Comcast Corp. paid company founder Ralph J. Roberts' widow $326 million this year to end its obligations under an executive perk awarded to Roberts in 1992, Comcast said in a regulatory filing in April.
The payment to Suzanne Roberts, 94, was part of an effort to unwind a form of life insurance once common as a component of executive pay, but a relic since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and IRS rules cracked down on the plans in 2002.
Ralph Roberts died last June at 95.
Comcast also paid $164 million to terminate life-insurance policies that were becoming more expensive each year because of Suzanne Roberts' age, the Philadelphia company said in its proxy statement, which details executive compensation.
"By settling these legally binding contractual obligations now, we were doing the right thing for the company and our shareholders, as the cost of continuing the life-insurance policies would only increase substantially over time," Comcast senior executive vice president David L. Cohen said Tuesday.
The ultimate cost to the company is expected to be far less than the $490 million paid this year. Comcast estimated the final cost at $154 million, accounting for the policies' $215 million cash value and an anticipated $121 million tax benefit.
Bloomberg News first reported the payments.
When Comcast entered into its so-called split-dollar insurance plan with Ralph Roberts in 1992, the plans were widely used to boost an executive's estate or to increase the executive's retirement income on a favorable tax basis.
They were called "split-dollar" because companies and the executives split premium payments on paper, though in reality companies usually lent executives money to pay their portion of the premiums.
Sarbanes-Oxley banned loans to executives.
In response, Comcast stopped making the payments for Roberts' split-dollar insurance policies in July 2002, but it was not off the hook.
The company in January 2004 awarded Roberts restricted shares worth $14.4 million in exchange for Roberts' agreement to release Comcast from the premium payments.
In later years, Roberts' compensation was primarily to reimburse him for premiums he paid on the life-insurance policies. That figure increased to $61.2 million in 2014 from about $50 million in 2013, proxy statements showed.
"The numbers were expected to grow on an accelerated basis in future years," Cohen said.
After Roberts died, Comcast received $14 million as reimbursement for premiums it had paid, according to its proxy statement.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Ralph's son, has an interest of about 11 percent in the trusts involved in these transactions. Comcast said Brian Roberts was not involved in discussions related to the deals.