It really pays to be a highly recognized entrepreneur, and preferably one whose name is essentially synonymous with his or her brand.
Just ask Nicholas Woodman, the chief executive, founder and creator of the high-definition GoPro camera. Woodman, who has appeared on the Inc. 5000 list and our Founders 40 list, is also one of the most highly paid executives in the U.S., according to the New York Times. The Times published its list of the top 200 most highly paid executives at public U.S. companies with valuations of $1 billion or more, on Saturday.
Woodman is joined by three other Founders 40 executives, whose compensation has increased on average more than 5,000 percent in the past year.
Here’s how the list breaks out:
- Nick Woodman, who founded the high endurance, high definition camera company GoPro reportedly received compensation worth $77.4 million in 2014, compared to $1.9 million in 2013. Woodmans’ salary and other pay grew 4,079 percent. Woodman ranks number 5 on the list for top pay, as well as top compensation growth. (Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Woodman’s compensation, including equity from the company’s 2014 IPO was actually worth $285 million, more than four times higher than Apple CEO Tim Cook's pay package for the same year.)
- Shutterstock’s Jonathan Oringer reportedly received compensation worth $27.6 million in 2014, compared to $300,000 for 2013. With a compensation increase of nearly 11,000 percent, Oringer ranks number 2 on the list for compensation growth, and 33 on the list for total pay.
- Mikkel Svane, chief executive and founder of cloud-based customer service business Zendesk reportedly had a relatively more modest $14.4 million in compensation for 2014, compared to $300,000 for 2013. Svane ranks number 3 for his salary increase of 5,125 percent, and number 157 for total compensation.
- FireEye’s Frank DeWalt, who did not found the company, but serves as its chief executive, reportedly received compensation worth $13.6 million, a 1,297 percent increase compared to 2013. DeWalt was chief executive at security software company McAfee before heading up FireEye, a company that specializes in state of the art security software and systems.
Compensation, of course, is not the same thing as salary. It includes numerous other incentives such as stock, options, bonuses and perks. While Oringer, and all other executives in this story were unavailable to comment by deadline, a spokeswoman for the Shutterstock said Oringer's salary is actually fixed at $1 annually. His total compensation, which the company says includes a “long-term equity award” tied to company performance, has stock options and other payouts that do not fully vest until 2019.
Pay packages of this type are common for most public companies, says John Challenger, chief executive and founder of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“Although pay has not gone down in any way, there is more shareholder input into executive pay,” says Challenger. He adds that compensation deals for the heads of public companies are increasingly tied to performance metrics, including the performance of competitors, and ensuring the chief executive doesn’t leave.
For example, Oringer’s compensation for 2014, according to a shareholder proxy statement from April, includes an option for 500,000 shares of company stock at an exercise price of $74.09. That vests in five years, but only if the stock exceeds $161.98, and provided Oringer does not leave the company.
And for other executives who are personally responsible for the success of the brand even after their companies go public, the rewards can be even richer.
“The company will fight to retain you and keep you there and reward you for staying,” Challenger says. “Nobody wants to be the next Apple that lost Steve Jobs.”