Bristol-Myers chief's early work on Celgene deal helped boost pay to $19.4M

Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio grabbed a 4% raise for 2018, just a tad more than the median pay hike in the U.S. last year. But unlike your average American worker's pay, Caforio's overall compensation clocked in at about $19.4 million.

The Bristol-Myers chief won that boost thanks to sales growth, earnings growth, and other wins, its proxy filing states —and despite the company's shortfall against some of its R&D goals.

BMS “exceeded ... financial goals in key areas, including continued growth across our core prioritized brands," the proxy said, and totted up $22.6 billion in revenue, an increase of 9%.

But the company acknowledged it didn’t meet all its pipeline benchmarks—otherwise, it might not have agreed to shell out $74 billion for Celgene in a deal it hopes to close later this year. It did manage "important scientific advancement of clinical assets that continue to diversify our pipeline," the proxy argues. The company also gave Caforio credit for his 2018 work on the Celgene offer, announced January 3 of this year.

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Overall, that mixed performance is likely a reason why Caforio’s pay grew only slightly, when other biopharma chief executives collected raises in the double digits, such as Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos' 18% bump.

Still, his $19.38 million total puts him in 11th place among the industry's highest-paid chiefs, based on the proxy filings now available. And unlike J&J CEO Alex Gorsky or Pfizer's ex-CEO Ian Read, he didn't watch his 2018 pay shrink.

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In immuno-oncology, where Bristol spends much of its energy these days, the company suffered setbacks last year and into early this year. In October, the company disclosed that the FDA had requested additional data on its Opdivo-Yervoy combo in previously untreated non-small cell lung cancer, and by January it had pulled the application.

The drugmaker has also stumbled in head and neck cancer, and it faces new competition kidney cancera key indication for Opdivo, which brought in $6.7 billion last yearcourtesy of Merck's Keytruda, which has now taken the top spot in the PD-1/L1 field.

“Although we made significant progress in advancing our innovative medicines pipeline in 2018 and our pending acquisition of Celgene's portfolio strengthens our strategic position, we recognize that there is still more work to be done,” the filing said, going on to list the therapeutic areas where BMS is advancing clinical assets.

Caforio’s salary grew only slightly last year to $1.637 million, while his stock awards grew by about $350,000 to just over $13 million. His non-equity cash bonus was slightly up as well, to just over $4 million. Caforio’s other compensation, which included company contributions to savings plans and some travel for family, came to about $664,000.  

Caforio's 2018 total ranks just behind Read’s $19.5 million, but several million ahead of AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot's $14.9 million, about twice Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan's $9.9 million, and about two and a half times GSK chief Emma Walmsley's $7.75 million.