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Apple has handed chief operating officer Tim Cook a US$22 million “thank-you” bonus for filling in for CEO Steve Jobs for five months while he was on medical leave last year.The bonus, disclosed in a regulatory filing on Friday, gives Cook $5 million in cash and 75,000 restricted stock units, half of which will vest on March 10, 2011, and the other half on March 10, 2012.At Friday’s closing price on Nasdaq, the shares would be worth a little more than US$17 million.

Apple said Jobs had nominated Cook for the bonus “in recognition of his outstanding performance in assuming the day-to-day operations of the company” during his medical leave, during which he had a liver transplant.

Analysts praised Cook’s running of Apple during this period, which effectively ended conjecture about problems should Jobs depart the scene.

They are tipping him as Jobs’ most likely successor.

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