Times: AstraZeneca CEO up for $65M goodbye

As usual with pharma CEO departures, the first wave of talk is all about the simple fact--who and how and why. Next? The gossip about severance. In David Brennan's case, word is that he's due for a golden handshake of up to £40 million, or $65 million, from AstraZeneca ($AZN).

That includes a £1 million annual pension payment, £8.2 million in accrued stock and £2 million in stock options, the Manchester Evening News reports. Compared with other pharma exit packages, it's quite hefty. Wyeth CEO Bernard Poussot walked away with $24 million after Pfizer ($PFE) bought his company in 2009. After engineering a merger with Merck ($MRK), Schering-Plough chief Fred Hassan zoomed to the top of our 2009 executive-pay list on the strength of his $33 million payout. And just last year, Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer was said to leave Genzyme with a $22.5 million parting package, after its merger with Sanofi ($SNY).

And all those were post-merger compensation packages, which typically include change-in-control bonuses. When Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler made his abrupt departure in late 2010, he took away an extra $10 million on top of his annual compensation of $15 million.

That £40 million total for Brennan is still subject to approval by AstraZeneca's board, a spokesman tells the Press Association. "The exact terms of David Brennan's package on retirement have yet to be agreed by the board, and we will disclose in due course," he said. "The pension fund he has built up reflects a 36-year career within the company at increasingly senior positions."

The Sunday Times said Brennan's payout would likely stir up debate about big pay for underperforming executives. But just how big is still in question. Poussot reportedly had been in line for $53 million after the Pfizer-Wyeth merger, but ended up with that $24 million payday. So activist shareholders don't need to start picketing the AstraZeneca headquarters. At least not yet.

- see the Press Association coverage
- get more from the Evening News