UPDATED: Sprint’s Claure may out-earn CEOs of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile - eventually

Marcelo Claure's earnings outpaced that of the CEOs at Sprint's three major rivals.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure could become the highest-paid CEO in the U.S. wireless industry -- if he is able to significantly raise the company’s share price.

Claure’s base salary is $1.5 million, but that could balloon to as much as $22 million in stock awards, $3 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation and an additional $400,000 in other rewards, if Claure is able to improve Sprint’s Wall Street footing. Claure's total compensation for 2015 is based on a Turnaround Incentive Award that will only be earned if Sprint's stock achieves a volume-weighted average price of $8.

Claure still has time to reach his goal: His Turnaround Incentive Award will be paid if Sprint’s shares reach $8 “over any 150-calendar day period during a four-year period from June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2019,” the company said.

Shares of Sprint were trading recently at around $6.09. That’s a significant improvement from February, when shares were trading at less than $2.50, but it’s well shy of the $8 target Sprint needs to hit for Claure to claim his full compensation package.

“I am proudly the lowest paid CEO of any major carrier and the only way I become the highest paid is if I turn around @sprint,” Claure tweeted in response to an earlier version of this article.

If Claure is able to reach his goal, he would earn a total compensation of $26,965,004. That tops the 2015 totals of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam ($18.3 million), T-Mobile CEO John Legere ($24.5 million) and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson ($25.1 million). And it places Claure fourth on the list of highest-paid executives in wireless, between Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts (in fifth place with $25.8 million) and Google CFO Ruth Porat (in third place with $31 million).

CFO Tarek Robbiati was Sprint’s second highest-paid employee with a total 2015 compensation of $11.7 million, and Jaime Jones, area president of the South region, was third highest with $7.4 million.

The irony of Claure’s compensation, of course, is that Sprint is the smallest of the four major wireless carriers, with fewer than half the customers of either Verizon or AT&T. And while the carrier has clearly made progress cutting costs and adding subscribers in recent months, Sprint’s long-term prospects are still unclear.

The nation's fourth-largest carrier said earlier this week that it added 173,000 net postpaid phone customers, easily topping expectations. Sprint posted a company-record postpaid phone churn of 1.39 percent, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of improved churn year-over-year. And it said for the first time in more than five years that it won more customers from each of the major operators than it lost to them.

The struggling operator also posted a net loss of $302 million, though, significantly wider than the $20 million loss it recorded a year ago. Analysts continue to express concerns about Sprint’s ability to generate free cash flow on an ongoing basis, and whether the carrier can continue to maintain a competitive network despite surprisingly low capex so far this year.

Claure was born in Bolivia and moved to Massachusetts in 1993 to attend the University of Lowell. He spent two years as an entrepreneur and executive in wireless before starting Brightstar, a Miami-based distributor and service provider to wireless companies focusing on the Latin America Market.

Brightstar’s worldwide footprint grew rapidly as the mobile market exploded, and in 2013 SoftBank invested $1.26 billion in Claure’s company. Less than a year later, Sprint parent SoftBank named Claure as president and CEO.

For more:
- see Sprint’s recent SEC filing

Special ReportThe 10 highest-paid executives in wireless in 2015

Related articles:
Sprint's latest quarter leaves some analysts unimpressed

Article updated August 4 to clarify Claure’s compensation and his Turnaround Incentive Award that will only be available if the company’s stock rises to $8 per share.