AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot bemoans being one of the 'lowest-paid' CEOs in pharma

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot doesn’t want to be a Pfizer executive, but he wouldn’t mind being paid like one.

The head of the U.K. drugmaker told the The Times, that despite the challenges his company has faced the last several years, it was absolutely the right move to fend of the 2014 takeover attempt by Pfizer, an offer that tallied more than $110 billion.

Soriot can now point to a company that is moving, making good on his promise to launch winning drugs and hit $45 billion in annual sales by 2023. But he pointed out that despite the effort, he is one of the lowest-paid executives among the Big Pharma players. He received £9.4 million ($12.7 million) in 2017, slashed 34% from the year before.

“The truth is I’m the lowest-paid CEO in the whole industry,” he told the Times. “You know, it is annoying to some extent. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. I’m not going to complain, but me and Emma (Walmsley, chief executive of Glaxo Smith Kline) are the lowest-paid in Europe and the US.”

RELATED: It's another dust-up over AstraZeneca's CEO pay, this time focused on his bonus

GSK CEO Walmsley actually got much less, just £4.9 million ($6.8 million) for her first year. Her performance-related pay amounted to £3.46 million, including a cash bonus of £1.54 million.

That all compares to the $27.9 million in total 2017 compensation paid to Pfizer CEO Ian Read, Soriot’s archrival in the battle for AstraZeneca. Read's rewards were up 61% and included a special equity bonus worth $8 million, contingent on bringing up Pfizer average stock price.

There is a chance that Soriot has been out shopping his skills for higher pay. Last year he was rumored to have taken an offer from Teva, something he told the Times was nothing but a rumor. A short time later, Teva announced it had enticed Kåre Schultz away from Lundbeck with a pay package that tallied $52 million.

Given the way things go in the industry, if Soriot makes good on turning AstraZeneca into the drugmaker he insists it can become, he can expect to be snatched up by someone. And financial results from the first half of the year indicate that is what's happening.

In oncology, sales of lung cancer drug Tagrisso skyrocketed 82% to reach $760 million in the first half of 2018, due to a new nod in the first-line, EGFR-mutated setting. PARP inhibitor Lynparza hauled in $269 million for the first half of 2018. 

This month, the FDA approved Lumoxiti for patients with the rare hairy cell leukemia (HCL) who have undergone at least two prior therapies. It marks the first medicine for the condition in more than 20 years, said AZ’s global head of oncology, Dave Fredrickson. It also is expected to bring in peak sales of $500 million.

That came a year after getting approval of Calquence in mantle cell lymphoma, another blood cancer.  For the first half of 2018, Calquence turned in $20 million.