CUPERTINO -- The pressure on Apple's new superstar executive, Angela Ahrendts, to overhaul the company's retail and online sales operations comes with an eye-popping $68 million signing bonus in the form of restricted stock.

Based on the current value of her promised 113,334 Apple shares -- not even including her undisclosed salary -- Ahrendts is in rare company. As Apple's senior vice president for retail, her stock package alone is 10 times more than the average total CEO compensation package of $6.75 million reported last year by the 177 top publicly traded Bay Area companies.

Only 11,486 of her shares appear linked to shareholder return, according to an Apple filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That means Ahrendts, former CEO of London-based Burberry, can start cashing in on most of her shares beginning less than a year from now, according to the filing, and all of her shares by May 2017.

"Normally you would be looking for that stock to be tied to specific achievement -- quantitative and transparent performance goals," said Nell Minow, co-founder of Maine-based GMI Ratings, which rates boards of directors for investors and other clients. "If it's all just flung at her like welcoming confetti -- that's not something shareholders would be encouraged by."

Minow is an Apple shareholder who also has shopped at Burberry's outlet store in Virginia. She believes Apple's more than 400 worldwide retail stores could use a little of the Burberry "pizazz."


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"Even in the outlet mall, you get a strong feeling of quality from the (Burberry) staff and the products," Minow said.

An Apple spokeswoman told this newspaper Tuesday the Cupertino-based company had no comment.

Ahrendts filled a yearlong vacancy at Apple after the company fired former retail chief John Browett. Before she was credited for turning Burberry into a sought-after brand for celebrity A-listers, Ahrendts was executive vice president at Liz Claiborne and president of Donna Karan International.

She is now one of nine senior vice presidents at Apple and reports directly to CEO Tim Cook. She is the only female senior executive.

"She's a retail superstar," said technology analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. "What she did at Burberry is pretty much legendary. There was no way Apple was going to attract her unless there was a significantly better compensation (than at Burberry). Tim Cook and the team realized that if Apple is going to stay ahead of the competition, their retail experience has to evolve. Angela is by far the most qualified to take it to the next level. Her track record suggests she could add a richer element of both design and enhanced retail experience."

By the end of the year, Bajarin said, he expects that Ahrendts will be busy visiting Apple's retail stores around the world and should be ready to unveil changes in early 2015.

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, said Ahrendts' stock package "certainly raises the stakes for her and for Apple, as well. If she does what she's supposed to, reinvigorate the retail operation, than that would be worth $68 million. Her impact over the next few years on the bottom line should easily be the equivalent of $68 million, and more likely two or three times that."

Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.