Niall FitzGerald, chairman of the consumer products giant Unilever, earned a total package of pounds 1.116m last year, up from pounds 935,000 in 1997.
Meanwhile Sir Peter Davis, chief executive of the life assurance company Prudential, earned a total of pounds 1.5m, including shares allocated under the company's long-term incentive plan.
Mr FitzGerald earned a basic salary of pounds 680,000. On top of this he received a bonus of pounds 332,000 and benefits in kind worth pounds 104,000. The bonus included an award of matching shares.
In addition, he was awarded a further 120,000 share options, taking his total share options to 635,000. The options are currently showing a paper profit of pounds 1.18m.
Sir Peter earned a salary, including bonus, of pounds 689,000. But in addition to this he was allocated 90,226 shares worth pounds 812,000 under Prudential's long-term incentive scheme. The shares will be released to him next year.
The four executive directors of Prudential were conditionally awarded a further total of 205,000 shares with a current value of more than pounds 1.6m. The shares will be released in 2001.
The board of National Express, the coach, rail and airport group, also enjoyed big pay rises last year. Phil White, chief executive, saw his total package, including shares awarded under the company's long-term incentive scheme, rise to pounds 877,000. He also made a pounds 562,000 profit by cashing in share options.
But the highest paid National Express director was its finance director and deputy chief executive, Colin Child, who took home a total of pounds 1.95m. This was made up of a salary including bonus of pounds 473,000, a long-term bonus of pounds 238,000 and a profit of almost pounds 1.3m from the exercise of share options.
Alan Kelsey, National Express's former group corporate development director, received a pay-off of pounds 415,000 after a board dispute with Mr White.