Eric Schmidt used to be the CEO of Google, and now he's not. But the company just decided to reward him with $106 million—100 in stock, six in cash—as an annual bonus. That's about $80 million more than the CEO of Goldman Sachs. It's also fucked up and insane.
Schmidt served as CEO of Google for a tremendously important decade at the company, and became a billionaire in the process, one of the richest people in the world. He's got about $800 million bucks or so to show for each year he was at the helm of Google, which I think is a pretty good haul for ten years of hard work. There's no doubt that running the most important company on the internet is a big job, and he made the big money accordingly.
But he's not the head of the company anymore. Just the head of its board. He doesn't run Google. Still, as CNN Money reported, he's getting a slice of the company's strong earnings:
Google reported last week that its sales hit $16.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone, up 17% versus a year prior. Schmidt served as Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011, and is now executive chairman. Schmidt is set to receive $100 million in restricted stock that will vest over four years beginning in 2015, and as well as a $6 million cash bonus. It's safe to say he doesn't really need the money.
When CNN Money is telling you that you don't need the money, you really don't need the money. And of course, he doesn't. No one needs or deserves $106 million on top of $8 billion. No one needs or deserves the $8 billion to begin with. And when your bonus is dwarfing what's seen on Wall Street—historically the nesting ground of grotesque compensation packages—you should stop and reevaluate.
But even if he doesn't need it—does he deserve it? It's true, on paper, Google had a good 2013. It was a good year to be a Google stockholder. But what does this have to do with Schmidt, who took a cushy chairmanship two years ago? (His ostensible role: "building partnerships and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership, as well as advising the CEO and senior leadership on business and policy issues.") What tracks did his thought leadership leave on Google's year? Well, we could look at the the acquisition and subsequent embarrassing sale of Motorola's phone division.
Watch Schmidt in happier times, talking up the $12.5 billion deal from his house on Nantucket, and emphasizing the value of Motorola's smartphone hardware, beyond its swanky patent portfolio. (Note: cross "house on Nantucket" off "list of things you might need $106 million for.)
This turned out to be a big shit sandwich, a debacle that ended with Google reversing itself early this year, after multiple years of Eric Schmidt championing the deal in glowing, giddy terms. As the top Google exec who isn't paralyzed by social foibles, Schmidt gets leaned on as the company's biggest public-facing character. So it's his big goon face that's in those old interviews, when buying Motorola could've been smart. It's also his lech's grin in stories about his open-marriage fuck mansion, using taxpayer jet fuel to fly to Fiji, or pervy Instagram account. It's his life (and marriage, and money), but for a public face, he's as much a liability as a boon for Google.
Is any of this worth a $106 million thank you? No. (Apple chairman Arthur Levinson's 2013 compensation, by comparison, was $508,000.) Does high finance's old punchline about needing exorbitant payouts to retain talent apply here? I doubt it—Schmidt is a billionaire eight times over, a hundred mil here or there isn't going to be what keeps him from jumping ship for a life of Android-augmented polyamory. So, what then? Why give him all this money on top of all this money? There's no good answer, because there's no good reason, but maybe the animal instinct, the bloodlust of out-bonusing Wall Street is too good to pass up on. If part of Schmidt's job is living on Earth as a mortal personification of Googleness, he's doing a poor job—if anything he deserves a small bonus, or no bonus. But, you know, the money is just sitting around, otherwise—you can only build so many private jet terminals and floating secret barges.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via Getty and Shutterstock