Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, has made the same $81,840 salary for two decades.
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He has never taken a stock award. Bezos doesn’t need it – he already owns 16% of Amazon, a stake worth more than $100 billion.
But Amazon (AMZN) pays a ton of money every year to keep its CEO safe. Bezos has received $1.6 million in security-related services and business travel each year since 2010 and at least $1.1 million since 2003 when the company first started reporting security expenses as part of Bezos’ total compensation.
Amazon says its security costs are “especially reasonable in light of his low salary and the fact that he has never received any stock-based compensation.”
Several tech CEOs have taken low salaries, including Steve Jobs who took just $1 every year (except for 2001, when Apple gifted its founder a private jet plane). Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin also only take $1 a year each. Former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used to take $1 in salary but was routinely among America’s highest-paid CEOs because he took home a ton of stock awards.
Although Amazon has paid Bezos the same salary since 1998, he used to get paid even less. In 1997, he made $79,197, and in 1996 he took home $64,333. Amazon was founded in 1994, but it only started reporting its finances when it went public in 1997.
Despite Bezos’ relatively low total compensation for a CEO, he still makes significantly more than the median Amazon employee. Most Amazon employees work in warehouses, and the median compensation for Amazon employees was $28,836 in 2018.
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour for US full-time employees. That went into effect in November 2018 and helped raise the median salary for Amazon’s full-time American workers to $35,096 last year.