Will Work For ... Nothing? People Who Declined Their Salaries

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With Steve Jobs’ passing, I was reminded of the fact that he, for many years, had been taking a $1 salary from Apple, Inc. Other Silicon Valley tycoons, politicians, and captains of industry followed his lead. Here’s a look at a few other folks who’ve voluntarily shed their own salary.

1. George Washington

George Washington received no salary for his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Money was tight for the fledgling nation, and Washington, the fairly well-off Virginia land owner, didn’t need to stress the nearly empty treasury any more than necessary. He did, however, accept the $25,000 annual salary that came with the job of President. He said that to refuse the salary would set an awkward precedent for his successors.

2. Michael Bloomberg

In probably the most obvious “I really don’t need the money” scenario, the Mayor of New York has refused the city salary since he took office in 2002. Bloomberg, whose wealth has been estimated at over $10 billion, doesn’t need the paycheck. He probably receives more in credit card cash back bonuses than the mayor’s salary anyway.

3. Meg Whitman

The new CEO of HP (and former gubernatorial candidate) has opted to receive the fashionable $1 salary from the tech giant. However, read between the lines and you’ll see that Whitman (whose net worth is somewhere in the $1-$2 billion range) has the potential of earning millions in bonuses and the potential for millions more in stock options. At least these payouts are tied to performance, unlike her HP predecessor, Leo Apotheker, who is walking out the door with a $10 million severance check after running the company into the ground. Oh, and he only worked there for 11 months.

4. The Governator

Arnold Schwarzenegger took no salary while governor of California. Some might not see this as a generous gesture since the former bodybuilder’s net worth is probably in the hundreds of millions, but Arnold estimates he probably lost out on $10-$20 million in revenue from missed film projects during the seven years he was governor. More than that, tough though, we the public benefited by not having to be exposed to unmade films like Penultimate Action Hero and Jingle All the Way 3, 4, and 5.

5. Other Tech Guys

Following Jobs’ lead, the following tech company leaders have all taken $1 salaries in the past, but have retained enormous share holdings, and/or earned stock bonuses during the same period: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Jerry Yang and Terry Semel (Yahoo).

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October 6, 2011 - 10:56am
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