Biogen shareholder denounces CEO pay

A Biogen Idec shareholder is castigating CEO James Mullen (photo) for selling $85 million in company stock and picking up $63 million in compensation, Reuters reports. And no, the shareholder isn't Carl Icahn. It's HealthCor Management, which owns 1.3 percent of the company. And it's none too happy with the current state of affairs.

"James Mullen has made considerable personal profits while running Biogen Idec," HealthCor wrote in a letter to Mullen and the Biogen board of directors (as quoted by Reuters). "[A]nd [he] has egregiously continued to sell down his personal holdings in the Company, while investors have been left holding the bag. Healthcor also maintained that Biogen hasn't maximized its earnings potential and has focused too much of its resources on R&D, to little recent success.

A Biogen spokeswoman defended Mullen's pay package and stock sales, saying that a.) the company exceeded its sales and earnings forecasts for 2008, and b.) that the stock sales were part of a predetermined sales program, not a whimsical personal choice. The spokeswoman also said that Biogen has actually been cutting back on R&D as of late.

HealthCor's complaints are yet another burr under Biogen's saddle. As you know, Carl Icahn mounted a proxy battle in advance of this year's annual meeting, winning two seats on the company's board. That proxy fight came after Icahn forced Biogen to attempt to sell itself--and Icahn ended up dissatisfied with the company's salesmanship. Plus, Biogen's lead drug Tysabri now bears an updated label warning that the risk of PML, a potentially fatal brain infection that has haunted the MS drug since soon after its launch, grows over time.

- see the Reuters story