Did Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Earn His $2 Billion Payday?

CEOs of public companies aren't like the rest of us. They have to oversee hundreds or thousands of employees, manage shareholder expectations, and develop the strategies that can produce long-term growth in a competitive world.

That's why CEOs are often handsomely paid for their efforts. But these plum pay packages aren't always justified -- and if an executive is milking his or her company for more than what is deserved, investors need to know.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, we'll look at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's compensation for 2012. Executive compensation is made up of several components, including base pay, incentives and bonuses, perks, stock options, and -- this is often overlooked -- any dividend payments on shares owned.


Stock options have become an increasingly important part of executive compensation in recent years, and we'll look at two types: options granted during the year, which can be realized at a later date; and options exercised from awards made in years past, which are previous promises of shares that were claimed during the year. An option is simply the right to buy shares at a predetermined price at a predetermined time. If you'd like to learn more about how options work, check out our Foolish investing wiki by clicking here (link opens in a new window).

Here's how Zuckerberg's compensation breaks down for 2012:

  • Base pay: $500,000
  • Bonuses: $266,101
  • Perks: $1,221,408
  • Options granted: $0
  • Options vested or exercised: $2,276,677,500

Right away, we can see the reason why Zuckerberg was GMI Ratings' highest-paid CEO for 2012. A $2 billion option payday is massive by any measure. But how does that stack up against Facebook's performance in 2012? Let's take a look.

To put this in another context, Facebook went public in mid-2012 at slightly more than a $100 billion valuation, with shares valued at $42 apiece at the opening bell. By the year's end, its share price had been reduced to just $26.65, a decline that left the company with a market cap of roughly $65 billion. For every $1 Mark Zuckerberg earned in 2012, Facebook's shareholders -- including Zuckerberg, who still owns more than 485 million shares -- lost $12.59 in aggregate shareholder value! Don't feel too bad for him, though, since his stake is actually worth about $4 billion more today than it was at the start of Facebook's IPO.

It's almost mind-boggling to consider just how much Mark Zuckerberg made compared to the company he founded, isn't it? But this doesn't paint a complete picture. The shares Zuckerberg exercised in 2012 were first awarded in 2005, shortly after the college-only social network expanded to include high school students. It was still a very young company, less than two years old, and very much in rapid-growth start-up mode. At the time, MySpace was the hottest name in social networking, and it had just been acquired by News Corp. for $580 million. Zuckerberg's huge award, at a time when Facebook was trailing well behind MySpace in total users, was simply part of the small company's recognition of his early leadership efforts rather than a guaranteed billion-dollar payday. He's almost certain to never approach this total again, since there are no more outstanding stock options for him to exercise, and any sales he makes out of his current share hoard won't be recorded as compensation.

If we look at Zuckerberg's compensation in terms of only cash and perks, we find he earned nearly $2 million in 2012. That's rather modest for the CEO of one of the world's most well-known and closely watched tech companies, even if Facebook isn't necessarily among the largest companies by revenue or cash flow. If Zuckerberg earns a similar amount in 2013, he'll have made $1 for every $27,000 the company created in new shareholder value from the start of 2013 to today. Of course, since Zuckerberg owns more than 485 million shares (out of 2.44 billion outstanding), that means he would have created about $5,400 in shareholder value for himself for every $1 he might be paid this year.

No matter which way you slice it, 2012  was a very good year for Mark Zuckerberg, and no matter how much he earns in compensation this year, it looks like Facebook's CEO will be amply rewarded for his efforts in 2013 as well.

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The article Did Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Earn His $2 Billion Payday? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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