Stada CEO 'happy' to take 40% pension cut. Sound foreign, U.S. pharma chiefs?

Stada CEO Hartmut Retzlaff

Here's something you don't see in the U.S.: The chief exec of Germany's largest independent pharma has agreed to a pension cut worth about 40%--a change he says he was "happy" to consent to.

Stada CEO Hartmut Retzlaff's retirement package will get a €16 slim-down to about €24 million ($29.9 million), Reuters reports. Retzlaff waived the money before taxes as part of a transfer of the package from Stada to an external pension fund, which had been "planned for a long time," the company's CFO said on a conference call Thursday.

The package for the 21-year helmsman is a far cry from the kind of money long-tenured pharma CEOs can take home in the States. For comparison, former Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) chief Bill Weldon took home a $143 million package when he retired in 2012 after a 40-year stint at the New Jersey drugmaker, with 10 of those years spent in the CEO's chair.

But in Europe, citizens have been known to raise fury over large retirement packages. Just ask former Novartis ($NVS) skipper Daniel Vasella, who saw his 72-million-franc ($74.4 million) goodbye present whittled down to $5.2 million after protests from pay watchdogs. (Swiss voters later passed a referendum giving shareholders the right to reject pay packages for top managers).

So while Retzlaff said on the call that he "was happy to" agree to the change in plan--which he didn't have to do, he noted--he also made the case for the sum he's still due after retirement.

"We managed under my leadership to turn this company, which at the time was already almost a hundred years old, from little better than a rabbit hutch into a reputable MDAX company," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

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