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Apple has paid its CEO, Tim Cook, a total of $ 1.4 billion since 2007. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison raised nearly $ 1.9 billion in shares and cash over the same period. And Mark Zuckerberg has withdrawn $ 5.7 billion from Facebook since the company’s IPO in 2012.
These are among the billionaire men in the technology industry. According to a new analysis over the past 15 years, the cumulative paychecks of half a dozen executives amounted to over $ 13.2 billion. Those are years in which technology companies became powerful forces in business, our lives and world affairs. The mood around tech has worsened recently, but tech bosses’ paychecks have largely remained intact.
The New York Times published on Friday an analysis of the highest paid heads of America’s publicly traded companies in 2020. During the pandemic, executives received some of the richest salary packages of all time, reported my colleague Peter Eavis.
To get a picture of what companies have been paying their bosses over time, executive compensation consulting firm Equilar has ranked the top 10 executives with the highest total compensation, dating back to 2006, when corporate compensation disclosure changed . Tech bosses took six of those ten places, largely because of the value of the stocks their companies had given them.
The billion dollar paychecks of a handful of men – and yes, they are all men – raise one big and unanswerable question: How do we know if they’re worth the money?
Baseball stat freaks know a metric called Wins Above Replacement which tries to quantify a player’s worth by estimating how many more or fewer wins a team has compared to a replacement that may be cheaper. Even in the data obsessed tech industry, there are few attempts to apply a profit above the surrogate value to the corner office.
Perhaps a hypothetical Alphabet replacement leader would do a better job than Sundar Pichai and for less than the $ 1.1 billion in stock and other compensation that Google’s parent company has paid him since 2015, according to Equilar analysis. Boards of directors don’t usually try to figure it out. Bosses are paid what they get.
Let me take a look at a few numbers on CEO salaries. Calculating what business leaders are “paid” to is a complicated and controversial task. In some cases, tech bosses’ pay is even higher than the mind-boggling numbers initially suspected.
When Cook took over Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO in 2011, the company promised to give him up to 28 million shares over the next decade after adjusting for stock splits. Back then, Cook topped the Times ‘annual ranking of the Times’ highest-paid CEOs, based largely on the potential value of that stock of $ 376 million. One expert called Cook’s share price “so historical that it skews the numbers”.
But Cook would only take home all the stocks if he stuck with it for 10 years and the company’s stock price rose faster than most other big companies. So what’s going to happen? Cook will likely collect all or nearly all of the stocks, with a final batch due in August. These stocks are calculated to be worth $ 3.5 billion, or nearly ten times the “historic” figure a decade ago.
Corporations typically justify high executive paychecks by saying that the bosses are irreplaceable and that they only get rich if the shareholders do because they are paid largely in stocks. Cook’s wallet has grown thicker since 2011 due to Apple’s soaring share price, as has anyone who happened to buy Apple stock.
But again, it’s hard to gauge how much it makes up for Apple Cook’s financial or stock performance. Maybe you’d cook 80 percent as well as Cook at a fraction of the cost.
Apple does not directly disclose the $ 3.5 billion figure. I took it from Apple’s annual financial statements to shareholders. Equilar calculated that Cook’s cumulative compensation since 2007, when he was Apple’s chief operating officer, is $ 1.4 billion. Equilar’s number measured the value of Cook stock each year it was released to him, not the current value of those stocks. Like I said, there are many ways to roll CEO salaries.
The numbers may seem light years (or a handful of zeros) away from most people’s financial situation, but they also have an encouraging message for anyone clueless about money.
Zuckerberg tops Equilar’s ranking of longer-term CEO salaries, made up almost entirely of stock options on 120 million shares that Facebook gave him shortly after the company was founded. Zuckerberg sold about a third of those shares for $ 2.3 billion more than a year after Facebook went public. If he had held these stocks instead, they would now be worth nearly $ 14 billion.
But don’t lose sleep worrying about Zuckerberg’s ill-timed stock sale. It’s still worth $ 124 billion.
Before we go …
About this discounted internet service … Government emergency funds are designed to help lower-income Americans cut their monthly internet bills by as much as $ 50. The news site Protocol found that even a small discrepancy – for example, typing “Street” instead of “St. – caused some internet companies to block authorized people. (The Washington Post wrote about other gimmicks in this internet rebate program last month.)
Break out the soldering iron! Vice News reports that New York is on the verge of becoming the first state to pass a law designed to make it easier and cheaper to repair your electronics and other things. Some product manufacturers, including Apple and John Deere, have campaigned against these “right to repair” laws, which would require them to give people and repair shops access to information manuals, tools, and parts rather than relying solely on authorized repair providers.
How about “The Crown” crowns? To make extra cash, Netflix opened an online shop for merchandise related to the company and its shows, including “Lupine” throw pillows and Netflix branded boxer shorts, report my colleagues John Koblin and Sapna Maheshwari.
Here’s a live video feed to watch elephant seals snort and waddle on a California beach. (This was one of my colleague Amanda Hess’s entertainment recommendations.)
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