Does anyone know how much Marissa Mayer is making?

The Yahoo CEO's complex compensation package leads to wildly different estimates of how much she'll get

The appointment of former Google executive Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo had tech industry tongues wagging Monday when the surprise announcement was made. Today, there's just as much talk about how much she stands to earn at Yahoo, but what people are saying depends on where they are getting their news.

The complex compensation package, revealed in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, appears to be testing financial journalists, who are coming up with a wide range of estimates.

"Yahoo to Pay CEO Mayer $100 Million Over Five Years," reported The Wall Street Journal, explaining that Mayer would receive US$5.4 million this year and around $20 million per year for each year after. All Things D, a Wall Street Journal sister site, reported Yahoo "could be paying its new CEO Marissa Mayer a total of close to $60 million."

CNN managed to find $71 million over five years in the regulatory filing, while Reuters almost agreed, reporting the pay "could total more than $70 million in salary, restricted stock, and stock options over five years."

When you're earning that much money, what's a million dollars anyway?

Among initial reporting, The Los Angeles Times came up with the fattest package: $129 million over five years -- more than double the All Things D total.

Given the confusion, perhaps the savviest reporting came from The New York Times, which didn't attempt to add up the numbers. "Yahoo's Mayer Gets Hefty Pay Package," it said.

The complex make-up of the compensation package is behind the different numbers.

Mayer will get a basic salary of $1 million.

That's simple enough.

Bonuses will total up to $2 million per year, but can be $4 million this year.

That's not difficult, either. But then there are stock options, restricted stock, equity grants and a one-time retention equity award.

And the language is hardly plain English:

"You will also receive a retention equity award under the Stock Plan with an aggregate award value of $30 million (the "Retention Equity Award"), such grant to be made to you at the same time, in the same forms (including the utilization of performance criteria), in the same manner, in the same proportions as the 2012 Annual Grant and subject to the same conditions, except that the Retention Equity Award restricted stock units will vest 1/5th on the anniversary of the Next Grant Date in each year from 2013 to 2017, and the Retention Equity Award options will be 1/5th (rather than 1/3rd) vesting in equal installments at the 12-month, 18-month, 30-month, 42-month and 54-month anniversaries of the Next Grant Date."

Perhaps it's no wonder that journalists have come up with wildly different estimates for how much Mayer could make over the next five years. So perhaps the best answer to the question of how much she'll take home is this one: a lot more than you.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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