SoftBank veteran is a billionaire after another huge payday

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Nikesh Arora has repeatedly succeeded in winning big paychecks.
At Google, he became the firm’s highest-paid executive after getting a compensation package worth about $51 million in 2012, on his way to collecting stock awards worth at least $200 million by the time he left.
Poached in 2014 by SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son — and touted as the legendary investor’s likely successor — he amassed a $135 million first-year compensation package that broke Japanese records and made him the world’s best-paid executive.
But it’s Arora’s latest stint, as chief executive officer of cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks Inc., that’s catapulted the 55-year-old into the billionaire class.
Palo Alto Networks handed Arora a $125 million stock and options compensation package when he was hired in 2018. Thanks to a boom in cybersecurity software after a series of high-profile hacking incidents that disrupted casinos, ports and even Treasury markets, the company’s share price has more than quadrupled since then — and Arora’s stake is now worth $830 million.
Combined with enormous pay awards he secured earlier in his career, Arora’s net worth stands at $1.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That makes him a rare non-founder billionaire tech CEO.
A spokesperson for Palo Alto Networks didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The bulk of Arora’s stake in Palo Alto Networks relates to more than 3.4 million options he was awarded upon joining the firm. Those were subject to meeting share-price targets, all of which have now been achieved including the highest goal: a 300% gain.
Stock awards
Arora sold nearly $300 million worth of stock in 2023 after exercising some of the options. The company’s shares rose 111% last year, making it the ninth-best performer on the S&P 500 Index.
He’s primed to continue building his fortune at Palo Alto Networks. Arora’s 2023 compensation includes a maximum of 750,000 stock awards that vest upon the achievement of certain performance conditions, which would currently be worth more than $220 million.
In its proxy statement, the company wrote the award was justified because Arora’s strong performance over his first five years meant he’d already been able to vest “$102 million of value each year.”
“Because of this significant vested ownership and the amount that Mr. Arora was projected to vest in over the next several years, the Board determined that a meaningful equity award would be necessary to ensure that such award retains and engages Mr. Arora.”

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