2011's Top-Paid CEO: Apple's Tim Cook*
*Assuming Jobs' successor sticks around 'til 2021, that is
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2012 10:51 AM CST
In this Oct. 4, 2011 file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook gestures during the introduction of the iPhone 4S, at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

(Newser) – The AP turned some heads yesterday when it reported that Tim Cook might have been the highest paid CEO in America in 2011, with total pay worth some $378 million. But the key word in that sentence is "might," notes Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune. It's still not chump change, but all Apple actually gave Cook last year was a $900,017 salary and a $14,700 contribution to his 401(K). The hundreds of millions more come from restricted stock units he was given upon promotion.

Half of those shares don't vest until 2016, and the other half don't until 2021, so if Cook flames out at Apple, his 2011 payday could look pretty modest indeed. But the SEC requires companies to report share grants as compensation in the year they're given, so lots of reporters are referring to $378 million as Cook's "total compensation." But if Cook really makes that much, "you could argue that he was worth it," Elmer-DeWitt writes.