Nokia’s outgoing CEO has a great excuse for not returning his €19 million bonus

Stephen Elop has had enough of people trying to deprive him of his bonus.
Stephen Elop has had enough of people trying to deprive him of his bonus.
Image: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Finns are not happy with the €18.8 million ($25.5 million) bonus being handed out to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop as a result of the sale to Microsoft of Nokia’s devices business. In fact, they’re pretty mad. Trade union leaders are aghast (paywall), newspapers are outraged, and even the prime minister thinks it’s “quite outrageous.”

Worse, it turns out that Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia’s chairman, misled the press when he said Elop got the same deal as his predecessors, when that was not in fact the case. Anger boiled over. Siilasmaa’s protestations that 70% of the bonus is being paid by Microsoft, to which Elop is returning, have made no dent.

Something had to give. Over the weekend, Nokia asked Elop if he would return the money or at least consider accepting a smaller amount. Elop declined. The reason? Nokia’s CEO explained he is in the middle of a divorce. According to Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest subscription-based newspaper, Finnish law states that “the property that a couple had at the moment that the divorce proceedings are initiated must be shared equally.”

If one of the two gives away property or, e.g. renounces the right to money that he or she is entitled to, that partner can be required to pay the spouse half of the property that was relinquished.

It is unclear when Elop initiated divorce proceeding and how that might affect the bonus. Moreover, Elop’s family lives in the United States, so Finnish law may not apply anyway, and we don’t know the details of any pre-nuptial agreement he and his wife may have had. All of which is simply to say that Elop’s excuse seems more like a polite way of saying to Nokia: “So sue me.”