Zuckerberg salary crashes to $1 a year

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World Wide Web 25th anniversary

When you're worth $27bn you can afford to take a $1 a year salary: especially if you've exercised a few stock options recently. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has declared his salary at just $1 a year for 2013 filings. It's a crushing base salary fall from more than $500,000 in 2012.

But it's in line with a growing trend of Silicon Valley bosses to ignore the monthly pay check and focus on the big picture.

Pay check drop

Zuckerberg is the 22nd richest person in the world if you deploy the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Facebook shares have risen steadily (currently $60.24) although they have slipped recently from their $71 March high (investors weren't over-impressed with the Oculus buy).

But Zuckerberg has also been giving some of his wealth away, siphoning off 18m FB shares to a non-profit organisation. As far as the monthly pay-check goes, other Silicon big names started the $1-a-year trend some time ago, including the late Steve Jobs and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

When exec pay outrage is all over the place, the self-effacing token $1-a-year looks refreshing.

Long term game

However long term discretionary awards and options all help to make up lost ground. In the corporate world, the base salary is only a very modest proportion of the reward package.

The disjoin is made even more acute if pay awards aren't fixed to a company's future performance (despite shareholder and regulatory pressure).

Forbes contributor Robin Ferracone has previously written that while the $1-a-year salary can be done for the right reasons it can "also be a ruse for executives to earn more while seemingly earning less – the ultimate sleight of hand in the magical world of executive compensation."

No malls in heaven

To Zuckerberg's credit, he has signed up to The Giving Pledge - a commitment from hugely wealthy individuals to give most of their wealth away. The world's most successful investor, Warren Buffett, has also signed up.

Buffett says the vast majority of his wealth will go to good cause before he dies. But 83-year-old Buffett says it's not money that has the greatest value but time, however old you are.

"A struggling child," he has written in the past, "befriended and nurtured by a caring mentor, receives a gift whose value far exceeds what can be bestowed by a check."