Does It Pay to Be Amazon.com's CEO?

It doesn't pay as well as being Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO, but Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) CEO Jeff Bezos is doing just fine.

According to recent SEC filings, the iconic e-tailer's founder and CEO took home a modest base salary of $81,840 last year, which is the same amount of bacon he's brought home for the past three years. But in addition to that, he received $1.6 million in "all other compensation," which primary consists of security costs for Bezos at business facilities and for business travel.

Bezos also received no extra compensation as a board director, got no additional stock awards, and also has no outstanding unvested equity awards. In the grand scheme of things, that's a fairly modest pay package for the CEO of an $85 billion tech company.

What else does Bezos have, though? Nearly 88 million shares of Amazon, or 19.5% of the entire company. Based on last Friday's closing price of around $188, we're talking about a $16.6 billion position.

Like I said: Bezos is doing just fine.

Founders and co-founders are typically willing to take home less in cash and stock compensation because they usually already have a sizable stake in the companies they started. On top of that, they have something else invested that's invaluable: pride.

For example, Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM  ) co-founder and CEO John Mackey earned a base salary of just $1 last year, for a total pay package of just $78,451. Mackey doesn't own a large percentage of his company, though. He beneficially owns about 1.1 million shares -- less than 1%.

Charles Schwab's (Nasdaq: SCHW  ) namesake founder and chairman beneficially owns roughly 199 million shares of that company, or a 15.6% stake. His pay package last year totaled $4.5 million, while CEO Walt Bettinger took home $10.1 million.

That adds some context to Apple CEO Tim Cook's 2011 pay package of $378 million, although the bulk of that amount was related to the 1 million restricted stock units, or RSUs, he received upon Steve Jobs' resignation. Not including those golden handcuffs (which are now valued near $600 million), Cook took home cash compensation of $1.8 million. Cook has a total of 1.36 million unvested RSUs.

With an estimated total net worth of $18.4 billion and the bulk of that from his Amazon shares, Bezos can say his interests are squarely in line with shareholders'.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Whole Foods Market, Apple, and Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Whole Foods Market, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Whole Foods Market, Charles Schwab, Apple, and Amazon.com and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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