Apple’s Tim Cook demands bigger stock risk (and costs himself $4m)

Dec 30, 2013
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Apple CEO Tim Cook has pressured the company board on pay, though not the way you might imagine: the chief exec has demanded his salary be more closely linked to Apple's stock price, as a result tumbling by $4m since the company failed to meet its targets. The Apple board had intended to base less than half of Cook's annual stock grants on the CEO performance-based metric it decided to shift to earlier this year. However, according to a preliminary filing with the SEC, Cook himself pushed for a greater chunk of his renumeration to be at risk, arguing that it would "set a leadership example."

The initial motivation for the board and the early numbers it collectively had in mind was to limit the risk placed on Cook's overall salary. The change in scheme won't see Cook paid more if Apple out-performs its stock goals - effectively to perform better than the other stock in the S&P 500 index - and so the "downside risk" is the only thing that could hit him.

However, Cook disagreed that he should be better insulated from Apple's overall performance, and that decision has cost him considerably this past year. The CEO argued that the scheme was an opportunity to set an example around "compensation and governance" and so requested a larger percentage than the board had in mind.

As a result, the Apple Compensation Committee opted to make a full 50-percent of Cook's stock grants dependent on how Apple performs.

With Apple's stock falling 26-percent in the August 2012-2013 period, compared to an 18-percent rise from the S&P 500 as a whole, that means Cook's entire at-risk portion of his vested stock was lost. That, CNN calculates, was worth almost $4m.

Nonetheless, that was still just a tenth of Cook's overall rewards over the past year. His salary at Apple is "only" $1.4m, but with cash and stock grant bonuses his total compensation is over $40m.

It's not the first time Cook has sacrificed more money than Apple wanted to give him. Back in 2012, he turned down a $75m dividend.


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