Palantir CEO becomes one of the highest-paid executives in history

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The head of unprofitable data analytics company Palantir has become one of the highest-paid executives in history, raking in more than $1.1 billion in total compensation last year.

Peter Thiel-founded Palantir — which conducts secretive data-processing work for US government agencies and corporate clients like Morgan Stanley and Airbus — paid CEO Alex Karp $798 million in options, $296 million in restricted stock and $1.1 million in salary, according to the company’s 2020 annual proxy statement.

Karp’s stock-heavy compensation was supercharged by Palantir going public in September of last year with a valuation of nearly $22 billion. The pay represents a roughly ninety-fold increase from his $12.1 million compensation in 2019.

In the proxy statement, Palantir said its sky-high compensation helped to “attract, retain, and motivate our leadership team in a highly competitive technology talent market while simultaneously aligning executive interests with those of our stockholders.”

A view of the New York Stock Exchange when Palantir went public.
Palantir went public in September with a valuation of nearly $22 billion.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Karp’s 2020 pay makes him far-and-away the highest-paid CEO of the year, with nearly three times as much compensation as runner-up Tony Xu, who co-founded the also-unprofitable delivery app Doordash. Xu received shares of his company worth more than $400 million shortly before it went public in December, according to December Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Doordash and Palantir did not immediately reply to requests for comment. 

The world’s two highest-paid chief executives made far more than any CEO of a S&P 500 company in 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Doordash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu.
Tony Xu, co-founder and CEO of Doordash.
Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch
The DoorDash app on a cellphone.
Doordash’s Tony Xu received shares of his company worth more than $400 million shortly before it went public in December 2020.
Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The highest-paid S&P 500 CEO, Chad Richison of payroll and human resource software provider Paycom, took in $211 million in 2020 — less than a quarter of Karp’s compensation. The median S&P 500 CEO made $13.4 million, and 24 CEOs in the group made took in less than $5 million, according to the Journal.

Karp’s 2020 compensation was the third-highest for any CEO since 2007, behind Elon Musk’s $2.3 billion from Tesla in 2018 and Stephen Schwarzman’s $1.4 billion from Blackstone in 2007, the Journal reported.

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