CEO Paycheck: 5 Highest Paid CEOs in Tech


Billionaire CEOs Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell and Larry Page started their companies from scratch while Tim Cook and Satya Nadella inherited theirs from legendary leaders. While they all had their moments — some legacy-defining ones and some not so memorable, they’re all part of the billionaire’s club.

Until the end of 2019, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet continued to rule as among the world’s most formidable and cash-rich tech companies, casting their web of mergers and acquisitions across the world. In the meantime, IBM, the world’s largest IT company in 2009, slipped to 38th rank in the Fortune 500 list by 2019 and Dell, which went private for four years to recover from a long slump, bounced back with a revenue of $90 billion in the same year.

Founder CEOs from Amazon, Dell and Oracle are still in the long game while some have handed over the reins to their successors — like Cook, Ginni Rometty, Sundar Pichai, and Satya Nadella who played a pivotal role in steering the company to profitability. Here’s how their respective annual salaries look like based on the latest-available figures:

Data Source: RS OnlineOpens a new window

$13.1M: Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella drew the highest annual income among top Big Tech CEOs in 2019, taking home $42.9 million inclusive of base salary and cash and stock rewards. Richly deserved — considering that Microsoft crossed the coveted market cap of $1 trillion the same year. While stock awards formed the bulk of his earnings, taking up $29.6 million of his entire booty, he drew a base salary of $2.33 million in the entire year and also earned $10.8 million in cash.

The near-million-dollar rise in Nadella’s base salary in 2019 was thanks to strong growth in Microsoft verticals like Azure, Surface, LinkedIn, and personal computing.

Fun fact: Nadella’s $42.9 million income in 2019 was exactly half of what he earned in his first year as CEO even though Microsoft’s market capitalization in 2014 was half of what it touched in 2019.

$10.7M: Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc

While Apple CEO Tim Cook drew a modest $3 million salary in 2019, same as he did the previous year, his overall income in the year exceeded $125 million- thanks to a $113.5 million compensation from the vesting of his Apple shares and a performance bonus of $7.67 million.

Tim Cook’s income, however, including base salary and his annual performance incentive, took a $4 million hit in 2019, thanks to a $4 million cut in performance bonus as Apple struggled to maintain healthy sales growth in the face of stiff competition. Apple’s strong performance recently, following the launch of iPhone 11, could signal a hike in Cook’s performance incentive this year.

$6.6M: Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, the only woman in the Big League who will step down in April this year, earned a base salary of $1.6 million in 2019 and also received a $5 million incentive, taking the total to $16.4 million.Her earnings via stock could also exceed the $13 million mark.

During her reign, IBM’s total value went through a nosedive, plummeting by an alarming $57 billion from $176 billion when she wore the crown to $119 billion when she tossed it. There was a method behind the madness though. The legacy tech company went through its noisiest churn under her direction, switching direction from all-hardware offering to a composite of analytics, cloud, mobile, security, AI, blockchain and IoT.

“Much of the decline in revenue has been engineered by us. We restructured the hardware business and it is now less than 10 percent of the company, and we returned that business to profitability,” she said. But with IBM struggling to take its annual revenue beyond the $80 billion mark- once a piece of cake for the IT behemoth- is her $16 million annual income worth its salt? We’ll let you decide.

$3.5M: Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Corporation

Michael Dell’s annual income of $3.5 million as CEO last year included $950,000 as his fixed salary and $2.66 million as non-equity compensation. While he takes home 12x as much as Bezos does in terms of fixed salary, he also owns a big chunk of Dell stock that keeps his net worth on the other side of $30 billion.

Michael Dell’s company lost $25 billion in market cap between 2007 and 2018. The company did bounce back eventually — thanks to a six-year long withdrawal from Wall Street and the $67 billion acquisition of EMC that brought VMWare into the mix. Like IBM, Dell has also restructured its services portfolio by including data center software and cybersecurity, among other things, and CEO Michael Dell has been in the thick of things throughout. His modest base salary and non-equity compensation, though, indicate that he hasn’t really bled his company dry during its toughest phase.

$1.68M: Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

While it is strange to see the world’s richest man appear at the bottom of this list, it is because Jeff Bezos has been drawing an annual salary of $81,840 every year since 1998 and receives $1.6 million a year for business travel and security services.

However, he continues to own 16% of Amazon’s present value, and this takes his personal net worth to over $126 billion- making him the richest CEO in the world by some distance. Last year, he continued to remain the world’s richest person even after he relinquished 25% of Amazon stock that he and his former wife MacKenzie Bezos co-owned. He can really get by without a monthly paycheck.

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