Amazon vs. Starbucks for top talent?
Seattle-based Amazon.com added coffee giant Starbucks to a tech-heavy list of companies it uses to determine executive pay last year.
Seattle Times business reporter
Could an unlikely rivalry be brewing between Amazon.com and Starbucks?
Amazon’s new proxy statement suggests that while the two Seattle corporate giants don’t necessarily compete against each other for customers, they may occasionally vie for the same senior management.
In Friday’s filing, Amazon added Starbucks to a tech-heavy list of companies it uses to help decide how much to pay executives. Amazon gave no explanation for the change, saying only that its peer group includes retail, Internet and technology companies.
Some compensation experts noted that, given the companies’ proximity, it makes sense that they’d compete for top talent — even though Starbucks apparently sees things differently, since its peer group does not include Amazon.
“One of the things we’ve seen over the past few years is that companies have begun to review their peer groups more frequently,” said Aaron Boyd, director of governance research at Equilar, a compensation-research firm in Redwood City, Calif. “For Amazon, it could be a matter of looking at their competitors not only in terms of products, but also in terms of talent acquisition.”
Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who owns about 19 percent of Amazon’s stock, received his customary $81,840 salary last year, plus $1.6 million in security costs. While that pales in comparison to what many other CEOs make, top executives at Amazon can earn eight figures, mostly from biennial stock awards.
Jeffrey Wilke, senior vice president of Amazon’s Consumer Business, had the largest pay package, at nearly $18 million, more than double the $7 million he made two years ago.
Diego Piacentini, senior vice president of the International Consumer Business, and Andrew Jassy, senior vice president of Web Services, each made nearly $12 million, also up from $7 million in 2010.
Starbucks, by comparison, paid CEO Howard Schultz nearly $29 million last year, including a $1.5 million salary, $2.3 million bonus and more than $24 million in stock and option awards.
Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead and the coffee chain’s next three best-paid executives — Jeff Hansberry, Clifford Burrows and John Culver — received compensation packages ranging in value from $2.8 million to $4.4 million.
“You wouldn’t think of Amazon and Starbucks as competitors, but geography could be a big factor,” Equilar’s Boyd said. “Your employees may not go to work for your rival, but they may go to work for the company across the street.”
Curiously enough, Amazon’s peer group also includes local heavyweight Microsoft, but not Costco or Nordstrom.
Other new additions include Apple, Facebook and Verizon, reflecting Amazon’s efforts to sell more Kindle devices and digital-media products. The world’s largest Internet retailer last year launched a bigger version of the Kindle Fire tablet to better compete with Apple’s iPad, and an Amazon smartphone reportedly is in the works.
As for Amazon vs. Starbucks, it’s not clear that either company ought to worry about losing senior management to the other. Among LinkedIn users, many Amazon employees came from Microsoft and IBM, while many Starbucks employees came from Microsoft and Target.
Spokesmen for Amazon and Starbucks declined to comment Monday.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @amyemartinez