Don't Worry About Tim Cook's Pay Cut

It sure makes for a fun headline to say that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) CEO Tim Cook saw his compensation drop by a whopping 99% this year in the absence of hefty stock grants, but don't worry about him: Cook's still doing just fine.

Cook's comp
Apple has filed its preliminary proxy statement with the SEC this morning, which includes juicy tidbits about executive compensation, among other relevant details. Cook actually received a 50% raise with his base salary, which totaled almost $1.4 million last year. The board also gave Cook the maximum allowed bonus of $2.8 million, bringing his 2012 compensation package to just under $4.2 million.

In comparison, last year his compensation was valued at nearly $378 million, but most of that was related to 1 million restricted stock units, or RSUs, that he received along with the CEO title. He has a total of 1,125,000 unvested RSUs, which was worth almost $800 million at Apple's peak in September. Even with the monster pullback in recent months, his stake is still worth a solid $574 million. Again: Cook's still doing just fine.

Everyone else
Apple has taken to a recent practice of granting execs regular RSU awards every other year, which makes reported executive compensation rather bumpy from year to year. As such, a handful of execs received generous 150,000 RSU grants in November 2011, shortly after the start of its fiscal 2012. These grants are actually old news and were reported on when they happened over a year ago, but they're making the rounds again today.

CFO Peter Oppenheimer, senior VP of technologies Bob Mansfield, general counsel Bruce Sewell, and senior VP of operations Jeffrey Williams are all listed as receiving $60 million in equity compensation related to those 150,000 RSU grants. Because of the timing of those grants, technically these execs had higher compensation than even the CEO in fiscal 2012, even though they were given just three months after Cook's 1 million RSU grant, which fell into fiscal 2011 since Apple's fiscal year closes in September.

Oddly enough, the filing doesn't list a few other execs who were included in the November 2011 round of grants: senior VP of marketing Phil Schiller, senior VP of iOS Scott Forstall, or senior VP of online services Eddy Cue (who only received 100,000 RSUs). Schiller is now Apple's primary showman that does most of the talking during product unveilings and launch events. Forstall is now on his way out but is still with the company as "an advisor to CEO Tim Cook" until next year. Cue is Apple's negotiator with content providers and now also in charge of Siri and Maps in the wake of Forstall's exit.

By the same rationale, Schiller and Cue also received more compensation than Cook in fiscal 2012, even if it's not disclosed specifically in this filing, while the status of Forstall's RSUs is ambiguous amid his transition.

How Apple compares
Considering Apple is the largest tech company on earth, Tim Cook's actually paid modestly. The value of his compensation package last year was primarily from the RSUs that vest over a decade. That said, CEOs at rival tech giants are paid even less.

For example, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) pays CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin just $1 per year and no stock, similar to Steve Jobs' old compensation structure. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) pays CEO Steve Ballmer about $1.3 million in cash each year (Ballmer voluntarily declines equity grants). Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) CEO Jeff Bezos' base salary is just $82,000 per year, although the e-tailer covers $1.6 million in security detail for Bezos and he still owns nearly a fifth of the company he started.

Cook's paid a lot more than Jobs was, but he's worth every penny.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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