Palantir CEO Alex Karp earned cash and stock worth $1.1 billion last year

Key Points
  • In August, a month before Palantir went public, CEO Alex Karp was granted 141 million options that vest quarterly.
  • Those awards resulted in a total pay package for 2020 of $1.1 billion, even though Karp's salary was just $1.1 million, according to a proxy filing on Thursday.
  • Karp owned about $1 billion worth of Palantir stock at the time of the company's market debut. The share price has more than doubled since, and he's cashed out about $350 million.

In this article

Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir arrives ahead of a "Tech For Good" meetup at Hotel Marigny in Paris on May 15, 2019, held to discuss good conduct for technology giants.
Bertrand Guay | AFP | Getty Images

Palantir CEO Alex Karp earned compensation worth about $1.1 billion in 2020, primarily through equity awards granted shortly before his software company went public.

In a proxy filing on Thursday, Palantir said the bulk of Karp's pay was tied to options worth $797.9 million, with another $296.4 million for stock awards. The outsized package is the result of an equity incentive plan agreed upon last year, giving Karp 141 million options that begin vesting in August 2021. Each quarter, 2.5 percent of the equity will vest.

Karp's 2020 pay was up from $12 million a year earlier. In addition to stock awards, he earned a salary of $1.1 million, and other compensation, including tax advice, personal security and use of chartered aircraft, totaling $3.1 million.

Karp, 53, co-founded Palantir in 2003 along with Peter Thiel and others to provide data analytics tools and services to the intelligence community. The company expanded while offering little visibility into its business, until going public via direct listing in September at a valuation of over $15 billion. After debuting at $9.50 a share, the stock soared past $35 in January, before dropping over the next few months. It closed on Thursday at $23.37.

While Palantir was for most of its life based in Palo Alto, California, Karp made a point in the prospectus of ripping Silicon Valley for producing businesses that sell our "thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits." Around the same time, the company announced plans to move its headquarters from Palo Alto to Colorado, a state that has significantly lower income taxes.

At the time of the New York Stock Exchange listing, Karp owned about $1 billion worth of Palantir stock. He's since sold about $350 million worth at share prices ranging from $9.10 to $31.59, according to SEC filings.

Stephen Cohen, Palantir's president, saw the value of his compensation jump from $16 million in 2019 to $192 million last year due to equity awards granted in August. Chief Operating Officer Shyam Sankar received total compensation worth $102 million in 2020, up from $26 million the prior year.

For all three top executives, the earn out will come over time. Options for Cohen and Sankar vest at 5% a quarter starting in August. Palantir said that the values ascribed to the 2020 awards are based on rules of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

"These amounts do not necessarily correspond to the actual value recognized or that may be recognized by the executive officers," the filing said.

A Palantir representative declined to comment.

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