Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Get ready for more stupid Apple CEO salary stories

December 27, 2012: 9:47 AM ET

Did Tim Cook really make $378 million in 2011? Did his pay really drop 99% in 2012?

Cook

Cook

FORTUNE -- You'd think this would be pretty easy to sort out, especially for the financial brainiacs at Bloomberg News.

In August 2011, two months before Steve Jobs died, Apple's (AAPL) board of directors granted newly appointed CEO Tim Cook one million restricted share units (RSUs) as an incentive to stick around. Half of those shares were scheduled to vest in 5 years, the other in 10 years. At the time, they were worth $376 million on paper. But in 2011, for Cook, they were worthless.

But that didn't stop Bloomberg -- or TechCrunch, Business Insider and others -- from using Apple's filing of a preliminary proxy statement with the SEC Thursday as a peg for a story that says Cook made $378 million in 2011 ($376 plus a $900,017 salary and other incidentals) and only $4.17 million in 2012 -- a "pay" drop of 99%.

The fact is -- despite countless stories that described Cook has the highest-paid CEO of 2011 -- Cook didn't have those 1 million shares last year when they were worth $376 million, nor did he have them in 2012, when they were worth, as of Wednesday's close, $513 million.

Moreover, although other Apple employees with unvested RSUs collected dividends on their shares this year, Cook asked that his RSUs not be included in the dividend program, passing up on a chance to take home another $75 million.

For the record, Cook received a raise in 2012 that brought his base salary to $1.4 million.

"Despite this increase," the proxy statement notes, "the target annual cash compensation for Mr. Cook remains significantly below the median annual cash compensation level for CEOs at peer companies."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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