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Google chief's $199M is 2016 pay champ

Angela Ahrendts on executive pay

The highest paid American executive likely is Sundar Pichai, the head of Alphabet's (GOOG) largest division, search engine Google, at almost $199 million last year. 

Pichai was named CEO of the Google unit in 2015, after a reorganization under new parent company Alphabet. While he isn't CEO of the parent company, much of Alphabet's success has come under his tenure, and his division generated the largest share of revenue and net income by far. 

Pichai presided over a big surge in first-quarter earnings, which were $7.73 per share. That was far higher than analysts' consensus. Over the past 12 month, the company's stock is up almost 30 percent.

Most of Pichai's pay last year was in stock awards, totaling over $198 million. He made an annual  salary of $650,000. His 2016 compensation represents a doubling of his 2015 pay. 

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Last year, he outearned his bosses, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and President Sergey Brin, who each earn $1 per year. Page and Brin, the company's founders, have been getting just a dollar for several years -- they own the most stock in Alphabet.

Other top earners at Alphabet last year were Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, at $39 million, and the board's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, who served as the company's head executive from 2001 to 2011. Schmidt earned $4.3 million. 

The Google division handles search, YouTube and the Android operating system. Along with Google, Alphabet has businesses like Calico, its biotechnology endeavor, and the "moonshot" efforts such as Nest and Google Fiber. Each unit has its own CEO.  

According to executive-pay tracking firm Equilar, the compensation record over the last 10 years was set by Tim Cook, when he became CEO of Apple (AAPL) in 2011 and earned around $380 million, predominantly in stock awards. (Equilar didn't compile numbers before then.) That chart-busting package came as Cook took over from founder Steve Jobs shortly before Jobs' death.

All financial reports are not in yet for 2016, but Equilar spokesman Dan Marcec said he "would not be surprised" to see Pichai stay at the pay peak for last year. 

In 2015, Dara Khosrowshahi of travel booking site Expedia (EXPE) had the highest pay among CEOs of publicly traded companies, at $94.6 million. For this year thus far, Equilar found Thomas Rutledge of cable operator Charter Communications (CHTR) is the best-paid CEO, at more than $98 million.  

With more reports still to come, average compensation for CEOs in 2016 was $16.6 million, up from $15.5 million the previous year. The top 500 U.S. CEOs earned 340 times the average worker's pay in 2015, the union confederation AFL-CIO found in a study.. 

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