New Apple Chief’s Payday: Incentive Gamble for Success

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The $13 million theft enterprise has been running since 2010 and specialized in selling Apple products overseas.

New Apple CEO Tim Cook now has an added incentive to execute: one million restricted shares of Apple, valued around $390 million, which vest over the next 10 years.

Cook, 50, has been with Apple since 1998 and is already a very rich man. Last year, Apple's board upped his salary as only COO from $800,000 to $900,000, gave him a $5 million bonus and then threw in restricted stock valued then around $52 million.

That wasn't the first time the Cupertino, Calif., computer and electronics company took care of Cook, either. By all accounts, especially that of new Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, Cook is the best person around to lead the company.

But Apple customers and investors still have a $390 million question: Can Cook repeat the same magic as Jobs and boost the share price the same 9,000 percent as his predecessor?

Apple shares Monday traded around $390, only slightly below their all-time high of $404.50. That makes it the most valuable company in the U.S.

However, that title can be a slippery slope. First, other companies from other sectors are very close, such as Exxon Mobil. But in technology, other stars have been the most valuable and then gone dark, or at least become less valuable.

Examples include Cisco Systems, now valued only around $85 billion; Microsoft, $214 billion; IBM, $205 billion and Google, $174 billion.

The reason Jobs, 56, stepped aside is because his body is breaking down. Previously, he'd taken medical leaves for treatment for cancer and a liver transplant. As usual, neither he nor Apple has specified his medical condition now.

That policy worried Apple investors because they knew so much of the stock's value hinged upon Jobs' special magic. Last year, Central Laborers Pension Fund, an Apple shareholder, tried to pass a resolution at the annual meeting to post a written and detailed succession plan.

Apple's directors, though, urged a no vote and said while they strongly support the concept, they believed the  company has a highly talented and experienced management team, not just the CEO, is critical to Apple's success.

The measure failed. But in giving Cook a salary hike and bonus, Apple's compensation committee said it had considered Mr. Jobs' recommendations in doing so. The compensation committee is headed by Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon Products, along with former Vice President Al Gore and Millard Drexler, CEO of J. Crew.

They had been generous with Cook in 2009, too. That's when they raised Cook, then COO, to $800,000 from $718,860 and handed him a $25.6 million bonus for standing in for Jobs the first time.

Wall Street analysts generally accepted the transition. We believe Steve Jobs has his fingerprints on Apple products for the next two years, Peter Misek of Jefferies wrote last week.

After less than a week as CEO, investors and customers will be watching. Cook's restricted stock vests over 10 years.

 

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