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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Mario Gabelli: Wall Street's $85 million man

Mario Gabelli
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Wall Street likes to call him "Super Mario," and in 2013 the moniker fit in more ways than one.

Mario Gabelli, the head of GAMCO Investors and widely followed market guru, pulled down $85 million in compensation last year, putting him on top of the mountain among his peers in asset management and elsewhere, according to an analysis by financial services firm SNL.

Perhaps just as remarkably, Gabelli receives no actual salary. Instead, he made this money based solely on incentives related to his company's growth. GAMCO's assets under management soared 78 percent from 2009 to 2013, rising from $26.35 billion to just over $47 billion.

Mario Gabelli's stock picks: CHMT, WFT & DBD
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The gain in AUM showed in Gabelli's salary, which climbed from $56.6 million in 2010 and was at $69 million as recently as 2012. SNL broke down his compensation structure as such:

As GAMCO's assets and earnings have grown, so has Gabelli's compensation. Per his employment agreement, Gabelli receives an incentive-based management fee of 10 percent of the company's aggregate annual pretax profits. According to a proxy filing, that fee contributed $16.5 million to his total compensation in 2013. He also receives a percentage of the company's revenues or net operating contribution as compensation related to managing investment companies and alternative funds, attracting mutual fund shareholders and otherwise generating revenue for GAMCO.

While GAMCO's performance topped an SNL benchmark for asset managers, the firm lagged others including KKR, Blackstone and Och-Ziff. However, Gabelli topped their CEO salaries.

KKR principals Henry Kravis and George Roberts pulled down just more than $44 million apiece, while John Frank of Oaktree Capital made a shade above $34 million and Larry Fink at BlackRock, which manages $4.4 trillion, pulled in just under $23 million to round out the top five among asset managers. KKR manages about $102 billion, while Oaktree manages about $80 billion, according to promotional materials from the firms.

The spigots were open elsewhere on Wall Street, as well.

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Jeffrey Sprecher, head of Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, was the top-paid CEO among broker dealers, raking in nearly $18 million in the year that his company acquired the New York Stock Exchange. Robert Greifeld at the Nasdaq OMX Group was a fairly distant second at $13.8 million, while ETRADE's Paul Idzik took home $13.6 million.

Among investment bankers, Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs led the way with just under $20 million in total compensation —off a base salary of just $2 million—followed by James Gorman at Morgan Stanley with $14.4 million. The rest of the CEOs at investment banks fell far behind, with FBR's Richard Hendrix making just $4.9 million even though his firm was best in class in terms of total return.

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—By CNBC's Jeff Cox.