Microsoft Corp’s AI-powered rally has sent its stock to new highs and the net windfall profit from Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella’s company has crossed a golden threshold: $1 billion.
Nadella’s boon includes all payments collected from Microsoft that can be parsed from regulatory filings: equity grants, salaries, bonuses and dividends. This is based on the more than 1,000% return by Microsoft shares since their first day at the top position.
It is unclear what Nadella has done with this income, and Bloomberg’s calculations do not account for spending or private investment. Regulatory filings show he has gifted shares worth $20 million over the years, though no disclosures have been made of the beneficiaries.
Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said by email that Nadella’s “net worth is not a billion dollars or more.” He declined to comment further.
Nadella took over Microsoft in 2014, at a time when many thought the technology giant’s best days were behind it. Today, it is the second largest company in the world and is considered to be at the forefront of the race to take advantage of artificial intelligence.
Nadella’s most transformative move may prove to be the company’s billion-dollar investment in OpenAI and its ChatGPT bot, which a senior executive called the “Windows 95 moment,” referring to the hugely successful software release nearly three decades ago. That put Microsoft ahead of competitors such as Alphabet Inc in AI capabilities, and is the main driver of the stock’s 50% jump this year.
“He is a popular figure and has built an incredible team around him,” said Sam Garg, associate professor at ESSEC Business School in Singapore. “He is one of the few tech CEOs who is not condemned by politicians and regulators.”
Nadella is part of an exclusive club of corporate titans who have earned 10-figure salaries from their employers. He has a similar image to that of Tim Cook of Apple Inc., leader of the only company in the world that is more valuable than Microsoft. Both took over successful companies at pivotal junctures, and both had to fight the long shadow of acclaimed founders. Nine years after taking on the role of CEO, Cook reached billionaire status.
Nadella’s big takeaway comes from a series of equity grants he’s received over the years, with payments tied to both his continued service and performance targets. He has sold some shares from time to time.
It also accounts for cash bonuses and dividends he received, assuming they are taxed at the top federal rates.
Like Cook, the rising value of Nadella’s awards largely stems from Microsoft’s stock returns since early 2014, including reinvested dividends.
It also marks a decade of change at the Redmond, Washington-based company. When Nadella became CEO, many saw Microsoft as a company of diminishing relevance: a giant best known for Windows and Office trying to find its way in a world of hand-held devices. The way forward was entrusted to Nadella, a native of Hyderabad, India, who had degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.
He started at Microsoft in 1992 and has worked on business software and services throughout his career. He earned his MBA degree by taking weekend classes at the University of Chicago, commuting from Seattle.
He advanced to various leadership roles and eventually became president of Microsoft’s server business. From there, he was selected as CEO after a lengthy process that involved several internal and external candidates. At that time he was 46 years old.
A few years ago, Nadella sat down with then-CEO Steve Ballmer for his annual review. In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, Nadella asked Ballmer how he was doing.
“You don’t have to ask me, ‘How am I?'” Ballmer replied. “At your level, it’s going to be fairly ingrained.”