Why Google Doubled CEO Sundar Pichai’s Security Allowance in 2018

Google approved an upgraded security program for Pichai in 2018 following a violent shooting at YouTube's headquarters.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google upgraded CEO Sundar Pichai’s security program in July 2018 following a violent shooting at YouTube headquarters. LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images

It may be trendy for tech CEOs nowadays to pay themselves a tiny salary to show that their importance cannot be measured by a monthly paycheck. But whether they like it or not, tech companies do have a price tag of some sort for their CEOs, which often comes in the form of “personal security expenses” in a company’s proxy filing ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.

By that measure, the CEO whose importance surged the most in 2018 has to be Google (GOOGL)’s Sundar Pichai. Pichai isn’t as big of a public figure as some of his fellow tech CEOs, like Facebook (META)’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, but last year Google shelled out $1.2 million to keep him safe, almost doubling the amount spent the year prior, Google’s parent company Alphabet revealed in an SEC filing on Tuesday.

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That significant bump in security spending was mainly a result of an “overall security program” Google approved in July 2018, the filing said, four months after a violent shooting at YouTube (a Google subsidiary) headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., left three employees injured and the broader tech community traumatized.

Pichai appeared to be the only member on Google’s senior executive team who received heightened security attention following the YouTube shooting. Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, whose base salary nearly doubles that of Pichai ($650,000), incurred only $333,000 in personal security costs in 2018. CFO Ruth Porat and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond didn’t record any security expenses for the year.

Compared across the industry, though, Google’s security program for Pichai in no way compares to what its advertising rival, Facebook, pays for Zuckerberg.

Also in July last year, alerted by the YouTube incident, Facebook’s board approved a $10 million pre-tax allowance to protect Zuckerberg and his family, citing “the importance of Mr. Zuckerberg to Facebook” as the main reason.

That huge allowance was separate from the $10 million Facebook already paid for Zuckerberg’s security in 2018 and the $2.6 million for his private jet use, according to the company’s proxy statement last month. Altogether, these items added up to a total of $22.6 million in “other compensation” for Zuckerberg in addition to his $1 base salary.

Why Google Doubled CEO Sundar Pichai’s Security Allowance in 2018