AbbVie chief's $20M-plus pay—and company jet-setting—headed skyward in 2016

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez saw his pay package grow in 2016 to almost $21 million, despite declines in his stock awards and options.

AbbVie’s Richard Gonzalez was already on the list of highest-paid biopharma CEOs when he scored $20.81 million in 2015 pay. And for 2016, that number went up even higher.

Gonzalez pocketed $20.97 million in 2016, with less than $12,000 of the increase from a bump-up in his base salary, which rose to $1.6 million.

Instead, the difference-makers were jumps in incentive pay—which went from just under $3 million to $3.6 million—and pension value, which vaulted to $3.2 million from $2.5 million.

The value of Gonzalez' perks also shot up, to $859,216 from $791,063. One big reason? Personal air travel, which for Gonzalez climbed over the half-million mark this year to $535,834. CFO Bill Chase, by contrast, cost AbbVie just $112 worth of flying for the year. Gonzalez got around on land, too, though, netting $19,362 in corporate care benefits compared with last year’s $17,303.

That’s not to say Gonzalez took home more in every compensation category. His stock awards shrunk to $9.3 million from $9.7 million, and the difference in his option awards—which slid to $2.4 million from $3.2 million—was even greater.

2016 was a tricky year for AbbVie in some regards, with hep C combo Viekira Pak falling hard on new competition from Merck and powerhouse Humira missing some quarterly estimates, raising concerns for the company’s future.

The real test will come over the next couple of years, though, as biosimilar versions of the $16 billion Humira hit the market. AbbVie has pledged to “vigorously defend” its IP on its prime source of revenue, but some industry watchers expect biosimilar copycats—including Amgen’s already-approved Amjevita—to pounce next year.