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The real story behind Snap CEO Evan Spiegel's $1-a-year salary

When Snap goes public this week, Chief Executive Evan Spiegel's salary will drop to just $1.

But between his 44 percent voting share in the company and last year's total compensation of $2.4 million, Spiegel is sitting pretty among other recent tech CEOs.

In fact, Spiegel's base salary puts him at the top of the list of big tech start-ups that have gone public in the past decade, according to data provided by Equilar, which tracks board and executive compensation. Equilar looked at SEC filings for Snap and other recent tech IPOs to compare chief executive compensation in the year before going public.

Snap is expected to be valued at upwards of $20 billion when it's priced after the close of markets on Wednesday. That would put the photo and video messaging company ahead of the other tech IPOs we considered, with the exception of Facebook.

At $503,205 last year, Spiegel has had the highest base salary of the bunch, at least on a noninflation-adjusted basis. For total compensation, Spiegel is third behind Match.com's Sam Yagan and Twitter's former CEO Dick Costolo, who took in stock and options valued at more than $11 million, but only $200,000 in salary.

Current Twitter chief Jack Dorsey was behind the helm at Square when the mobile payment and financial services company went public in 2015. He took just $3,750 in salary from Square in 2014 and that rose to $6,000 in 2015.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook, took a base salary of $483,333 in 2011, the year before the social media giant went public. He also received nearly $800,000 in perks, largely for personal use of private aircraft.

Evan Spiegel
Jae C. Hong | AP
Evan Spiegel

Spiegel's total compensation included $890,339 for personal security, according to company filings.

Snap has indicated that Spiegel will receive a salary of just $1 a year following the public offering, a common move in the tech community. Oracle's Larry Ellison and Facebook's Zuckerberg are among the "dollar-a-year-men" crew, as are Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page .

That isn't to say that Zuckerberg is a pauper: He received more than $12 million over the past three years for security and some $2 million for use of a private jet, according to company filings.

Spiegel will own 44.3 percent of Snap's total voting share when it goes public. That's because of a multiple share class system similar to Facebook's. At Snap, Class A shares will have no voting rights; Class B shares will have one vote apiece; and Class C shares — which are split evenly between Spiegel and co-founder Robert Murphy — will have 10 votes each.

Snap back to reality

If Snap were priced at $16 a share, as the company has projected, that would make Spiegel worth north of $4.2 billion according to Recode, and one of the youngest billionaires around. At 26, he is six years younger than Zuckerberg. Still, there are drawbacks to structuring his compensation in that way.

If investors are scared off by that valuation — or by the nonvoting shares they're offered — Spiegel's net worth could sink real fast.

Snapchat, the company's main product, has proved a hit with teens and adults alike. The smartphone app has 158 million daily users and the company had revenue of $404.5 million last year, according to filings. Still, growth is slowing: Year-over-year user growth fell from 66 percent in the quarter ending June to 63 percent in September and 48 percent in the last calendar quarter.

At Snap's roadshow in London last week, Spiegel blamed the use of cheap Android phones around the globe for the slowing growth.