Any other business

The definitive business advent calendar: 1 December – What’s behind door one?

4 min read

01 December 2015

Former deputy editor

It's 1 December and Real Business is feeling festive. As we work our way towards Christmas, we're going to count down in an advent-like fashion with a business observation that pertains to the number the date represents. So, what's behind door one?

Billionaire founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is a man of simple tastes.

Indeed, he famously wears the same outfit each day. And while some leaders likely wouldn’t dream of following in his fashion footsteps, he said the choice of clothing is to help eliminate spending energy on “silly or frivolous” things.

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,” he explained.

Of course, Zuckerberg is a known philanthropist and with a worth of $35.7bn, he really doesn’t need to worry about things like money in the same way us mere mortals do.

This was proven in March 2014 when it was revealed in a company statement that Zuckerberg decided to reduce his annual salary to just $1.

“In setting compensation for 2013 , our CEO, our COO, and our vice president, human resources, worked closely with the compensation committee in managing our executive compensation program and attended meetings of the compensation committee,” said the document.

“No executive officer participated directly in the final deliberations or determinations regarding his or her own compensation package, except for our CEO who requested that his base salary be reduced to $1 per year for 2013.”

That meant for 2013 and each year to follow, he would be rewarded with just one buck – the equivalent of 66p.

The decision, one Zuckerberg clearly didn’t believe to be “frivolous”, brought him alongside other members of the $1 salary club, which include Apple’s Steve Jobs, Google’s Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Offering a similar explanation to that of the reason for his limited wardrobe, Zuckerberg said: “I’ve made enough money. At this point, I’m just focused on making sure I do the most possible good with what I have. The main way I can help is through Facebook — giving people the power to share and connecting the world.”

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Although it may seem like a noble decision to skip the base salary of $600,000 on the surface, it’s been deemed a way of reducing tax and little more than a meaningless marketing stunt.

After all, he raked in some $3.3bn through stock options in 2013 instead – an increase from the $2.3bn made the previous year when he also received a $770,000 salary and bonus.

Beyond that, Zuckerberg’s company expenses in 2013 were $650,000 to cover private jets and security, and $90,000 for estate and financial planning advice.

Aaron Boyd, director of governance for compensation researcher Equilar, summed it up when he said: “The dollar salary really for them is meant to signify that they have large stakes in their company. The value they’re going to receive – the compensation they’ll earn – is coming solely from their stock.”

Using Google as an example, he added: “You’re not going to question whether or not Larry Page is interested in growing a company’s stock as a shareholder. As one of the largest shareholders, he’s all in.”

In Zuckerberg’s case, whatever his true reason, it’s hard to call the man a Scrooge at this time of the year when he’s so intent on giving to both shareholders and users.

Make sure you’re back tomorrow for day two in our Christmas countdown!

Next: 2 December on the definitive business advent calendar