After surveying the 2010 version of What the Boss Makes, many names jumped out because of the size of their pay.
But there were four that I decided were worthy of special attention:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Reed Hastings, Netflix
I very much wanted to find someone else for this award, primarily because I've gushed a few times over how Hastings is a model of pay for performance. Surely there must be some other fresh face who merits this award.
The one who came closest was Kevin Johnson, the Microsoft refugee who became CEO of Juniper Networks in 2008. During his first two years at the helm, Juniper has generated buzz for eating into the market share of its larger rival, Cisco Systems (CSCO). And in part the credit seems to be due to a sizable increase in spending on research at Sunnyvale-based Juniper.
But after the stock went on a tear for much of last year and early into 2011, Johnson's warning that sales are getting soft has sent shares on a downward skid. That means the jury is still out on a guy whose compensation totaled $10 million in 2010, almost half in salary and cash bonuses.
I also gave Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit (INTU), a close look. The financial software company has seen its stock jump 66 percent since the start of 2010 while earnings and revenues have ticked up. Shareholders are most likely feeling that the $13.9 million pay package Smith received in the past fiscal year, including $11.6 million worth of stock and options, was well earned.
But even so, I just couldn't place Smith or Johnson ahead of Hastings. For one thing, Hastings' pay package was worth a mere $5.5 million in 2010, including about $5 million worth of stock options. In return, the company's stock has risen by about 400 percent since the start of 2010. That means Hastings has created about $10 billion in shareholder value in exchange for a cash salary of about $500,000. That's a bargain by any measure.
And the continued rise in subscribers and the stock price came even as Netflix (NFLX) managed the neat trick of shifting its business model from a delivery-by-mail DVD service to being the leader in streaming movies over the Web.
Among valley CEOs, Hastings was the most valuable player in 2010.
Comeback player of the year
John Kispert, Spansion
Kispert was hired as Spansion's CEO in February 2009 with a clear mandate. The Sunnyvale-based semiconductor company was in financial turmoil and its largest creditors were clamoring for the company to be sold or liquidated. Indeed, when Spansion's board hired Kispert, it offered him a bonus if he could find a buyer or sell its assets.
But Kispert had another idea: Save the company. He cut jobs and pay for those who remained, and filed for bankruptcy, leading to a protracted and brutal fight with creditors. But along the way, Kispert and his executives developed a turnaround plan. And eventually, Kispert's optimism won the day, with the board amending his employment agreement to allow him to collect the bonus if the company emerged from bankruptcy.
Last summer, Spansion did just that and the board rewarded Kispert, who worked on a month-to-month salary during his initial tenure with the company. In 2010, not only did he get a $4.4 million bonus and $865,000 salary, but he got an additional $8.5 million worth of stock and options for a total package of $13.8 million.
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