Nuance Communications creates voice-based software: voice recognition, speech detection, and interactive voice response. But it has gained the majority of its recognition in the technology space for licensing Siri, Apple’s voice-powered assistant, to Apple for use on its mobile devices. But it is not just Nuance’s unique voice software that puts it in the spotlight; the company’s CEO’s salary does as well.
Paul Ricci, CEO of Nuance, made $29 million last year — $87 million total over the last three years, according to the Boston Globe. Supporters of Ricci and his big paycheck remind critics that he built Nuance into the speech recognition giant that it is today.
But companies that make mobile phone software are ripe for these kinds of executive pay packages; technology companies have some of the highest paid executives of all. Twitter CFO Mike Gupta made $24.6 million last year. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, as well as some other high-profile technology CEOs, have made so much money over the last few years that they publicly announce their yearly salaries are $1. (Of course, their stock options and equities are what really make up for that so-called pittance.) So Ricci’s salary does not seem too out of place for a successful company, unless you consider the drop in Nuance’s share of 16 percent over the past three years as well.
Executive pay has been a hot topic in the U.S. of late as the debate about Coca-Cola’s executive compensation plan for the next four years has gained heavy criticism from analysts and investors alike. Warren Buffett has made the debate even more lively as he recently called the equity compensation plan — which delivers $13 billion to executives over the four years — “excessive”, only to retract that statement later. Coca-Cola’s pay plan was approved by its board, despite the uproar from shareholders who claim that it takes money that should go to investors.
Regardless of whether or not Ricci deserves nearly $30 million from his work in 2013, the controversy around his salary is right in line with the debate surrounding excessive executive compensation.