A Clarification About James Barksdale

A Jan. 30 “Moneybox” criticized technology executives who, after the tech bubble burst, symbolically eliminated their salaries or reduced them to a dollar while continuing to take loads of other compensation in the form of options or bonuses.

The article sought to distinguish between today’s phony dollar-a-year men, who give up nothing, and earlier executives who took huge real paycuts to rescue their embattled companies or serve the government in wartime.

The article noted that in 1997 Netscape CEO James Barksdale reduced his salary from $100,000 to $1. The next section of the article linked Barksdale with Apple CEO Steve Jobs as part of “the new breed of dollar-a-year men,” then went on to criticize Jobs and other CEOs for continuing to take enormous amounts of other compensation after cutting their salaries. Understandably, some readers concluded that I was lumping Barksdale with the present-day phonies.

Barksdale and Slate readers deserve a clarification. I intended Barksdale to serve as an example of a genuine dollar-a-year man who made a real sacrifice for his company. Barksdale cut his salary without adding options or other compensation, and he did it long before the tech bubble burst. He received no bonus in either 1996 or 1997. And in April 1998, he returned a stock option grant of 300,000 shares given to him in April 1997. The article should have been more clear that Barksdale was one of the good guys.