Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the highest paid CEO in the United States last year, according to an annual poll by corporate governance research group GMI Ratings released this week, raking in nearly $2.28 billion thanks to a combination of salary, bonuses and stock options.
GMI Ratings' 2013 CEO Pay Survey, which covered 2,250 bosses of publicly traded companies in North America, found that Zuckerberg earned a base salary of $503,000, as well as bonuses of $266,000. His stock awards from the proceeds of Facebook’s IPO though were worth up to $2.27 billion alone.
"Lest anyone think these are merely paper profits, readers may recall that Mr Zuckerberg immediately liquidated more than $1 billion worth of shares at the company's IPO," the GMI report said, as cited by AFP.
"The second largest form of compensation for Mr. Zuckerberg was perquisites totalling about $1.2 million, including personal use of company aircraft during 2012 for him and guests as well as security costs."
America’s second highest paid CEO was Richard Kinder, from energy giant Kinder Morgan, who was paid a base salary of $1 and given stock worth more than $1.1 billion last year.
The earnings of the top two far overweighed other CEOs on the list, with the third-highest paid CEO Sirius XM Radio's Mel Karmazin earning just $255 million, followed by Liberty Media's Gregory Maffei at $254 million and Apple's Tim Cook with $143 million.
"In the more than ten years that GMI has been publishing this report, I've never seen a top ten highest paid list that loomed this large," said Greg Ruel, author of the report.
"While the companies in this year's list have performed well over the past three and five year periods in terms of shareholder return, generally speaking, it's the sheer size and volume of equity awards granted to these top executives that catapults their total compensation to astronomical levels."
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GMI noted that while stock options are intended to align the interests of top executives with shareholders, "the unintended consequence of these grants is often windfall profits that come from small share price increases."
Zuckerberg, whose company has been around for only nine year, will receive just $1 in base salary starting from this year.