In what may be the most generous compensation package in business history, Apple Computer Inc. has rewarded its chief executive, Steve Jobs, with stock options that on paper earned him $200 million in the last week.
Jobs has been taking an annual salary of $1 during two years of engineering a turnaround at the once-ailing computer company. Apple yesterday reported strong earnings in its fiscal first quarter, the company's ninth straight profitable quarter.
But some compensation experts questioned the decision by the company's board to award Jobs options to buy 10 million shares. The board also threw in a fully outfitted Gulfstream V jet that cost the company $90 million.
"It suggests a board that is just consumed with hero worship," said compensation expert Graef Crystal. "It's not a prudent thing to have done."
Crystal said his calculations suggested that it is the largest CEO option grant in history.
"It becomes a giant homing beacon" for other chief executives, Crystal said. "They're adjusting their bibs and picking up their knives and forks."
Apple directors and some compensation experts defended the option grant.
"You can't overpay Steve Jobs," said Chuck Sweet, president of A.T. Kearney Executive Search. "The plane is almost humorous."
The options were priced at $87.18 3/4 each, the closing level a week ago. Apple shares rose $2.62 1/2, to $106.56 1/4, in regular Nasdaq Stock Market trading yesterday, then surged to $111 in after-hours activity.
That means the marketing whiz has already earned more than $200 million on paper from the stock's appreciation. Of course, Jobs already ranked among the world's wealthiest individuals, No. 199 on the latest Forbes list with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
In an interview in last week's issue of Fortune magazine, Jobs said, "I didn't return to Apple to make a fortune. I've been very lucky in my life and already have one. . . . I just wanted to see if we could work together to turn this thing around."
If Jobs exercised all his options today, the Apple co-founder would become the company's largest shareholder, with more than 5 percent of the company.
Apple shares have more than tripled in value in 10 months. If they do that again, it would give Jobs an extra $1.8 billion by year's end.
By contrast, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., who added $69 billion to IBM's stock market value in 1998, reaped a bonus of $7.5 million that year, on top of his $1.85 million salary. (Gerstner also owns or has options on more than 2 million shares.)
Crystal calculated the present value of Jobs options package at $434 million. The next largest options grant, he said, was to Michael Eisner, chairman of Walt Disney Co., with a present value of $180 million.
With Jobs as chairman, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has introduced the hot-selling iMac computers and refocused its operations. Apple has come back from the brink of extinction and had a market value of $17 billion at yesterday's Nasdaq close.
The company reported yesterday that quarterly profit from operations rose 45 percent, to $178 million, or $1 a share, from $123 million a year earlier, beating Wall Street projections of 90 cents a share. The increase was attributed to strong holiday sales of iMacs and iBook laptops.