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Spare a thought for poor old Apple. Not only did their CEO Steve Jobs pass away last October but the salary bill for his anointed successor, Tim Cook, is substantially higher.

The Proxy Statement [PDF - 377K] released today shows that while Jobs famously received an annual salary of $1, Tim Cook's salary is a massive $377,080,000. That's not a typo - it really is over three hundred and seventy seven million dollars.

To be fair, only $900,000 of that is actual money with the remaining $376,180,000 coming in stock options. Half of those options will vest on August 24, 2016 (five years after they were awarded) when he was appointed CEO following Steve Jobs' resignation with the remaining 50% being awarded in 2021.

To put that in some perspective, Apple's annual revenue is about $110B. BHP Billiton has a revenue of about $72B. The CEO of BHP Billiton is paid about $10M per year with about 80% of that being in bonuses. So, by Australian measures, Cook's salary seems on the high side to put it mildly.

It would be nice to think that Cook's salary is totally justified but the reality is that the salary is probably driven by two main factors. Firstly, Apple's board sees Cook as a valuable executive and wants to ensure that he isn't snatched away, leaving them vulnerable. So, the money becomes a golden handcuff. Vesting the stock in two lots over 10 years is an effective retention strategy.

Secondly, executive pay is really a scorecard. Apple is the most valuable company in the world. By paying its CEO at that level Apple ensures that Cook's ego is satisfied.



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