Big bonuses for Amazon executives

E-mail E-mail this article
Print Print this article

Online retail giant paid two top executives $1.5 million in bonuses last year and, in one instance, paid one of them $400,000 to sign an agreement not to compete or disclose information if he left the company, according to the company's annual proxy statement.

In a Jan. 17, 2000, letter, the company offered Diego Piacentini a position as senior vice president of Amazon International, which encompasses the company operations in Germany, France, Japan and England.. As a condition of his employment, he was required to sign a confidentiality, noncompetition and "Invention Assignment Agreement."

"You should know that the agreement will significantly restrict your future flexibility in many ways," wrote Joe Galli, then-president and chief operating officer of Amazon. "For example, you will be unable to seek or accept certain employment opportunities for a period of 18 months after you leave the company."

The letter, included in yesterday's Securities and Exchange Commission filing, was one of several glimpses into the hiring and compensation practices of the highly guarded bellwether of Internet commerce.

Piacentini, the former general manager of Apple Computer Europe, received a $1 million bonus last May.

Mark Britto, senior vice president of marketing and cross-site merchandising, was awarded $500,000 in January, although he was notified of the pending bonus a year earlier.

Britto, who was promoted to the position in July, received a $150,000 salary and $2.5 million in bonuses, to be paid in equal installments over a 30-month period.

In a letter dated Jan. 17, 2000, Galli laid out the terms of Piacentini's hiring, which included a $175,000 salary, a $1.9 million signing bonus paid in two installments, and a 10-year option to purchase 300,000 shares, vesting at the rate of 60,000 shares per year.

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said the company makes compensation decisions based on what's best for shareholders.

"We take everything on a case-by-case basis," she said. "Obviously the shareholders benefit in the long-term by having a strong contingent of talented executives and employees."

Amazon's shares closed yesterday at $10.19.

Monica Soto can be reached at 206-515-5632 or