The top 15 highest-paid biopharma executives

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Some biopharma exec positions are pretty much guaranteed high pay checks.

Tracking executive pay follows a familiar pattern: Collect compensation disclosures, read said documents as they pile up, and when the usual suspects have all filed their annual reports and proxy statements, put the numbers into a spreadsheet and sort descending.

The first documents surface as early as January and trickle into May. European Big Pharma comes first; a certain few U.S. drugmakers file their proxies much later than the rest.

The rankings themselves are predictable, too—about 60% of the time, at least. The other 40%? That’s why we’re here.

It’s pretty much guaranteed Johnson & Johnson’s CEO will be near the top of the list, regardless who’s in the job. Same for Abbott Laboratories—until it spun off its pharma business, AbbVie, whose CEO is now a regular. Same for Bristol-Myers Squibb—from Jim Cornelius to Lamberto Andreotti and now Giovanni Caforio, M.D.

What’s not guaranteed is that the chairman of a generics maker in hot water with the U.S. government and American parents—Mylan’s Robert Coury—would step off the company’s employee roster and into the nonexecutive chairman’s job and reap a $97 million package with the move.

Or that a biotech company led by a savvy dealmaker—Medivation and David Hung, M.D.—would sell to a Big Pharma—Pfizer—and leave with a golden parachute worth more than $35 million (not to mention more than $300 million in payoff from the sale, but that’s another story, or ranking).

Or that a specialty pharma company whose stock tanked by 40% when it slashed its guidance, namely Endo, would bid goodbye to its CEO, Rajiv De Silva, and pay him $19 million for the year, including almost $100,000 for the privilege of an immediate sendoff.

And certainly not that a company trying to rehab its reputation and its badly beaten stock price would, despite government investigations, hand over $63 million to its CEO for failing to do much to fix either. That, of course, is Valeant and its chief, Joseph Papa.

These are the outliers of 2017. Also on this top 15 list are executives who have been outliers themselves at least once, including Regeneron chief Leonard Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., who joined the list in 2012 with $30.05 million when his company’s lead product hit the market, and hit it big. And then there are those, like Pfizer CEO Ian Read and Merck & Co.’s Ken Frazier and Amgen’s Robert Bradway, who always make their appearances somewhere or other, but never at the top, and never with much big movement in the individual line items on their proxy statements.

We’ll admit this: We’ve missed a few in our time. Back when Valeant Pharmaceuticals was revving through M&A, it wasn’t among our usual suspects. But lo and behold, it suddenly handed over a big bonus to then-CEO Michael Pearson. We’ve checked their numbers ever since.

All of which is to say, if we’ve missed anyone, let us know. Other comments, questions and suggestions? You know where to find us. — Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)

The top 15 highest-paid biopharma executives