Apple's Cook's payday: Why every cent is deserved

While Steve Jobs earned only $1 a year in salary, his fortune came from Apple stock. But Tim Cook has a million-times greater salary, but it's worth every cent.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook was awarded a pay package worth $378 million after only officially being in the job since August. But since the late Steve Jobs' medical leave, Cook has effectively been running Apple for all of last year.

His compensation package, according to a proxy statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [PDF], includes $900,000 in base salary. He also received 1 million restricted stock units from the board worth $376 million, to signal its continued confidence in running the company. This in line with the 10-year vesting period gives Cook an incentive to stay with the company.

Apple's compensation committee also increased Cook's base salary to $1.4 million.

Compared to Jobs' salary of $1 per year, the board must really be pleased with his performance.

Compared to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer at $682,000 in 2011, Oracle's Larry Ellison at Jobs-like $1 a year (not including bonuses and stock awards), it puts Cook on the very high end of the salary spectrum.

But as Fortune notes, Cook's 2011 salary is just over $900,000, along with 401(K) contributions and life insurance premiums.

It's likely that Cook is one of, if not the highest paid chief executive in the consumer technology circuit. But altogether it still doesn't come close to Cook's overall pay package in 2011, analysts believe.

Since Cook's ascension to the Apple throne, Cook has not only kept Apple in ship-shape, but its management in line -- and in their respective seats.

The culture shift from when a company chief leaves or passes can change the entire company's ethos. Cook's continued balanced approach has kept Apple vastly in the same position it was a year ago, if not a little richer.

But in respect to Jobs' "thermonuclear war" on Android and its alleged infringed patents, there was hope that Cook would relieve the company of the ongoing patent dispute cases.

New analysis received by Fortune suggests four outcomes to the global patent war:

  1. settlement with per unit license fee paid to Apple;
  2. a more favorable outcome where Apple handicaps Android's feature set and/or distribution and captures 25 percent of Android's future market share;
  3. neutral with no winner; and
  4. Apple loses and must pay a counter claim

Ultimately there are two choices: either Apple settles, or it doesn't.

If it settles, Apple's shares could jump to around $35 per share, or not and raise its share price to an estimated $260. Both have other factors to consider, such as the licensing of Apple technology for $10 per Android device sold.

Apple is "unlikely to settle cheaply" says the report.FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller agrees, but not without a catch.

"There is no realistic scenario -- not even a remotely realistic one -- in which Apple can simply tax the Android ecosystem, generating additional income but also keeping market prices and its own margins higher by (in the analyst's example) $10 per device, without losing out on the bottom line."

Cook has taken on Jobs' will in not only as Apple's top brass, but his inherited war on Google's Android also. The company will continue to plug vast amounts of money into a cause it may not win so that ultimately it does win.

Nevertheless, Apple is going from strength to strength. The Wall Street Journal reports that not only has Cook "got rid of the parsimony that existed at Apple under his previous boss", Cook also retains his vast list of senior vice-presidents.

Not to mention, Apple's stock is trading significantly higher since the share price drop upon Jobs' death on October 5th. The iPhone 4S was the most successful launch the company has ever had, and this year prepares for the iPad 3 and the iPhone 5.

Considering that Cook's compensation relies on the company doing well, it's at least one incentive for the Apple chief executive to continue the company trading at record highs.

Image source: CNET.


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