Tim Cook Turns Down $75 Million Payout

Tim Cook

Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Shareholders just got a $75 million gift from Apple’s CEO.Apple’s set to start paying dividends in July. Employees who hold restricted stock units, or RSUs, wouldn’t normally see any of that money, though, since RSUs aren’t actual shares.

Apple’s board voted today to give employees who hold restricted stock units “dividend equivalents,” even on unvested RSUs, to be paid in cash or used to offset taxes employees owe.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, though, is passing up on his payments under the program—an estimated $75 million.

That’s OK. He made almost $400 million last year.

Apple has been paying employees with restricted stock units for a while. Unlike options, which can lose all value if the stock drops below a certain point, restricted stock units retain some value in stock dips, so big tech companies like Google and Microsoft have been using them for some time to tie compensation to the stock price without subjecting employees to massive, morale-depressing swings.

Just ask Facebook employees. RSUs are a big reason they’ve been able to shrug off post-IPO stock gyrations.

It’s not clear why Apple employees need to earn dividends on their phantom shares: After all, they haven’t technically earned those shares yet. That’s the whole point of vesting.

But if it’s one more thing Cook and Apple’s board can do to make Apple employees super-extra-happy and keep them from leaving for Google or Facebook, it seems worth it.

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