Nick Bilton, the NY Times lead technology writer, may be one of the most heavily recruited tech writers around. He was our number one most desired hire while I was at TechCrunch. And apparently at CNET, too. He turned down an offer from CNET and parent company CBS that would have given him over $1.5 million in total compensation, says a source.

@YungJohnnybravo @TatWZA

Instead, he elected to stay at the NY Times earning, by my estimate, significantly less than $150,000 per year.

CBS was looking for Bilton to do regular tv bits on technology, and write heavily for CNET, for an annual salary of over $500,000, says the source. In addition, I’ve heard, CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster was to purchase the rights to his upcoming book to be titled “Owned,” which is about “the end of privacy and ownership.” Bilton’s first book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted, will be available in paperback shortly.

But he hasn’t done a book deal around Owned yet. Simon & Schuster, says a source, was going to pay him “seven figures,” or at least $1,000,000, for the book.

A source close to CBS says these figures are wildly inaccurate. A Simon & Schuster deal around Owned was only “a possilibity, not a reality,” says the source. And the total CBS/CNET combined compensation was in the $300,000 per year range, not $500,000+.

Either way, it was quite a potential raise.

Bilton did manage to get a new job at the NY Times out of this, at least. He’ll become a weekly technology and business columnist, and will continue to blog. Last year he wrote some 350 blog posts and about 50 print articles. Now he’ll focus on the weekly column and write only occasionally on the blog, I hear.

I know TechCrunch was also aggressively pursuing Bilton, as was the Huffington Post (perhaps competing with each other, who knows). Other publications were also actively pursuing him as well.

Not bad for a guy who never got a journalism degree, or any other degree. Bilton’s background is in design. And he’s one of the best writers the NY Times has. They’re lucky to have kept him.