Who are the richest biopharma execs? Not all the usual suspects

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals executives Len Schleifer (CEO) and George Yancopoulos (CSO) topped the biopharma executive-pay rankings this year. Now, Regeneron's ($REGN) top brass sits at the top of a new list: biopharma executives with the richest store of shares in their own companies.

According to Genetic Engineering & Biotechology News, leading biotech executives dominate the ranks of best-capitalized managers. Gilead Sciences ($GILD) CEO John Martin, Celgene ($CELG) chief Robert Hugin, Alexion ($ALXN) CEO Leonard Bell and Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) founder Joshua Boger all sit in the 9-figure range. In fact, only a few Big Pharma chieftains made the top 40 list at all--and a few of the pharma entries could surprise you.

But let's start with the drugmakers among the Gene News top 10 (which also includes some life sciences suppliers and technology purveyors). Schleifer is the only billionaire, with $1.13 billion in Regeneron shares. His R&D chief, Yancopoulos, holds another $580 million. Regeneron Chairman Roy Vagelos, for his part, sports another $675 million in company stock. (Somewhat farther down the list is Regeneron SVP Neil Stahl, with $63 million in shares.)

Meanwhile, Gilead's Martin has amassed almost $599 million in his company's shares. The biotech execs' numbers drop off pretty quickly from there, with Alexion's Bell holding $330 million in company shares; Celgene's Hugin and his $267 million; and Vertex's Boger at $132 million. Former Vertex chairman and CEO Matthew Emmens still boasts $78 million in stock, just slightly more than Amgen ($AMGN) chief Robert Bradway's $77 million in his company's shares.

As for Big Pharma, we have a retired chairman--Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) William Weldon, with $260 million--and a nonexecutive chairman--Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) James Cornelius, with $133 million. There's Bristol-Myers CEO Lamberto Andreotti, with $141 million in BMS stock. Finally, Eli Lilly ($LLY) CEO John Lechleiter and Merck ($MRK) chief Kenneth Frazier each own about $64 million in their respective companies' stock. And as Gene News noted, Novartis ($NVS) CEO Joe Jimenez and Pfizer ($PFE) chief Ian Read narrowly missed the $41 million required to make the list.

And now, for the share-rich executives who surprised us. First, Phillip Frost, chairman of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA), the generics giant trying to remake itself into a brand-plus-generic powerhouse, owns $545 million worth of Teva stock, putting him squarely in the top 10. Allergan Chairman and CEO David Pyott has collected $267 million of Allergan ($AGN) equity. And Howard Solomon, who's retiring as CEO of Forest Laboratories ($FRX), owns $98 million in common stock.

We'll let you peruse the list for details, not to mention the rest of the entries. What's clear here? It's good to be a successful biotech executive. Regeneron had a great year, with big share awards for its top leadership; Vertex shared its wealth, too. It's also good to be a Big Pharma CEO.

- read the GEN story

Special Report: 20 Highest-Paid Biopharma CEOs - Len Schleifer, Regeneron - David Pyott, Allergan - Leonard Bell, Alexion