Apple Exec’s $73 Million Pay Hints at Salary Gap

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How much did Apple CEO Tim Cook take home last year? Roughly $9.22 million, according to Apple’s recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing (PDF), but even that wasn’t the highest amount paid to any of the company’s officers. Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail and online stores, pulled down $73.3 million.

Ahrendts’ eye-popping compensation derives largely from stock awarded to her upon joining the company in May 2014. The award was compensation for what she would have earned over the next several years as CEO at Burberry, her previous role. Given her central position with regard to Apple’s retail operations, Cook must consider that money well spent. Ahrendts will also use her background in fashion to guide the development and rollout of Apple’s wearable electronics, starting with the release of the Apple Watch in March.

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Defenders of that sort of massive pay package will argue that Ahrendts oversees a multibillion-dollar concern, and that her compensation is a mere fraction of what Apple’s retail stores (and perhaps Apple Watch) will earn over the next 12 months, much less the next several years.

But others will point to Ahrendts’ pay package as yet another example of the widening gap in compensation between those at the top of the corporate pyramid and those in the middle ranks. Because Apple’s performed spectacularly with regard to device sales, stock price and revenues, its investors and critics have remained largely quiet on the issue of executive pay; but if the company begins to show weakness at the seams, that could change. It’s certainly happened at other tech companies: In 2013, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison caught investor grief for his (then) $76 million pay package, which was 1,124 times the salary of a mid-level Oracle programmer analyst. (Investors seem to panic over Ellison’s pay whenever Oracle’s stock price levels off.)

As revealed by the latest Dice salary survey, tech workers in the United States earned an average of $89,450 in 2014, up 2 percent from 2013. Many of those workers reported earning a higher salary in the past 12 months, either due to merit or because they changed employers. Those skilled in data analytics and cloud platforms tended to make the most, with Platform-as-a-Service specialists capable of pulling down $130,081 a year on average—a comfortable living, at least in the majority of markets. But certainly not the same as $73 million.

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