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Google CEO shunned a large stock award after lavish payouts

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The Google chief executive officer hasn't received an equity award in more than two years. A key reason is that Mr Pichai turned down a big new grant of restricted stock in 2018 because he felt he was already paid generously, according to a person familiar with the decision.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Sundar Pichai was, for years, one of the world's highest-paid corporate executives. Now he's facing the opposite reality: No big paychecks at all.

The Google chief executive officer hasn't received an equity award in more than two years. A key reason is that Mr Pichai turned down a big new grant of restricted stock in 2018 because he felt he was already paid generously, according to a person familiar with the decision.

It's unclear how much he passed up. But another giant payday - on top of hundreds of millions of dollars in previous awards - could have sparked a new round of controversy for the mild-mannered executive.

Technology companies are being increasingly blamed for all sorts of societal ills -- including rising income inequality. Since getting the top job in 2015 for his engineering prowess, Mr Pichai has had to address these concerns, while juggling a host of other politically charged issues.

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"He may have looked at these numbers and said: ‘I've had enough' - or he might just be trying to manage the optics of his pay," said David Larcker, a professor who researches corporate governance at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The board of Google parent Alphabet Inc is scheduled to revisit the CEO's pay later this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. By then, almost all Mr Pichai's previous stock awards will have vested. That makes him an anomaly among US corporate leaders, and is even raising questions about what's next for the 46-year-old.

"Clearly there's very little retentive effect left for Pichai," said Fabrizio Ferri, an associate professor at the University of Miami who studies executive pay.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment, and said the Alphabet board won't comment either. The company and its directors have said nothing publicly about the CEO leaving any time soon. Mr Pichai has never mentioned moving on either.

Google is known for its willingness to pay lavishly to attract and keep talented employees in the executive suite and beyond. Top bosses receive almost all of their compensation in the form of restricted shares, usually granted in even-numbered years. Mr Pichai had been among the main beneficiaries.

In 2014, shortly before Pichai was promoted to take over many of Google co-founder Larry Page's responsibilities, he received restricted stock worth about US$250 million. The following year, when he became Google CEO, he got US$100 million of stock. And in 2016, Pichai received another grant worth almost US$200 million.

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