Ex-Sanofi chief Viehbacher makes a $5M-plus severance deal

Former Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Sanofi ($SNY) may not have its next CEO figured out yet, but it's worked out what it's going to pay departed helmsman Chris Viehbacher. The former chief exec will take home €2.96 million ($3.37 million) in severance following his abrupt dismissal last fall, plus noncompete pay and 2014 incentive pay.

The total comes to at least €4.44 million, and depends on how much bonus pay Sanofi's board decides to give him for last year.

The €2.96 million in severance amounts to a year's compensation, duplicating the fixed and incentive pay Viehbacher earned in 2013. He'll be eligible for the 2014 incentive pay he would have earned had he kept his job, prorated through his departure date; the maximum bonus would be two times his €1.26 million salary, but depends on how the company fared against his performance targets.

The money comes with few restrictions. Viehbacher agreed not to hire away any previous Sanofi employees for 18 months, and he's signed a two-year confidentiality agreement. He's also bound to cooperate "in the context of judicial procedures," Sanofi said.

And don't expect him to be running a rival drugmaker anytime soon; the noncompete agreement runs through June 30 in return for €246,750 per month, or €1.48 million for 6 months.

Because his exit wasn't linked to resignation or misconduct, he'll still be able to exercise his options and his performance shares will still vest on schedule, according to Sanofi.

All told, it's still a far cry from the golden parachutes that have lined the pockets of Viehbacher's U.S. counterparts. Even some of pharma's European skippers have fared better: Consider David Brennan, sent packing by AstraZeneca ($AZN) in 2012. With accelerated vesting of shares and options, plus severance pay and pension, he stood to collect $65 million.

Back in October, it looked as if Viehbacher's take-home would be higher, too. Under his Sanofi contract, he was eligible for 24 months' worth of fixed compensation, plus 24 months' worth of variable pay. But that so-called termination benefit was only set to apply if his ousting was (a), nonvoluntary, and (b), linked to a change in control or strategy. Viehbacher definitely had the former covered, which means that strategy component may have been the kicker. The company has repeatedly--perhaps carefully--said it is sticking to the same game plan.

Meanwhile, at least two potential candidates have now spurned the French drugmaker in its quest to find a successor--and preferably one with ties to its home country. The latest? Takeda COO Christophe Weber, set to take up the reins at the Japanese drugmaker later this year. "I'm committed to Takeda," Weber told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I just arrived and I'm not the kind of guy who would jump like that."

AstraZeneca's top dog, Pascal Soriot, has reportedly turned the pharma giant down, too, leaving Smith & Nephew ($SNN) CEO Olivier Bohuon, Bayer HealthCare chief Olivier Brandicourt and Novartis ($NVS) chief ethics officer Eric Cornut as rumored prospects.

- see Sanofi's statement (PDF)

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