By Phil Goldstein
Every year, FierceWireless ranks the top 10 highest-paid executives in the wireless industry, and every year executives from the nation's largest wireless carriers top the list.
But not this time.
This time, executives from Google, Microsoft, Apple and Qualcomm dominated the list of highest-paid executives in the wireless industry, according to new data from public Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
This list looks vastly different from the one FierceWireless produced for 2013. Left off the 2014 list are AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (who made $23.98 million in 2014, up slightly from $23.24 million in 2013); Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure (who received $21.8 million in total compensation for around eight months of work from August 2014 to March 2015); Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam (who received $18.3 million in 2014, up from $15.82 million in 2013); T-Mobile CEO John Legere ($18.57 million in 2014, down from $29.24 million in 2013); and former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse ($10.51 million in 2014, down from a package worth $49 million in 2013, which made him the highest-paid wireless executive that year).
Why has the landscape in executive compensation shifted so much? The simple answer is stock awards. Stock awards and restricted stock units accounted for the majority of the compensation for the executives from Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Apple who populate this year's list. Even if some of those awards do not vest for several years, they still inflate the compensation figures for the executives.
For example, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who tops the list this year, received $100.44 million in stock awards in 2014, or 92.4 percent of his total compensation package. Similarly, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, Apple's new senior vice president of retail and online stores, was paid a total of $73.35 million, but $70 million of that was in restricted stock units. As Apple explained in its proxy statement, Ahrendts received an RSU award with a value of $37 million to compensate her for her unvested Burberry equity awards, as well as an RSU award of $33 million that intended to encourage her to join the company and to "provide her with a meaningful equity stake" in Apple. Ahrendts' performance-based RSUs are not expected to fully vest until 2017, so she'll have to stick with Apple until then and hit her goals in order to get all of that money.
Qualcomm, meanwhile, paid former CEO and current Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs and CEO Steve Mollenkopf a combined $117.7 million in the company's latest fiscal year. Qualcomm said the move was an effort to fend off competitors recruiting members of Qualcomm's management "who are essential to the company's long-term success." The vast majority of Mollenkopf's, Jacobs' and Qualcomm President Derek Aberle's compensation came in the form of stock awards.
Perhaps next year the list will include more executives from traditional wireless carriers. For now, Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Apple executives are among the most handsomely paid in the industry.
P.S. Be sure to check out similar executive compensation lists in the cable/pay-TV industry from FierceCable and in the wireline telecom industry from FierceTelecom.
Apple SVP Jeff Williams
Apple SVP Eddy Cue
Qualcomm President Derek Aberle
Former Google CFO Patrick Pichette
Google SVP David Drummond
Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs
Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf
Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt