In busy year with Haleon spinoff and Zantac lawsuits, GSK CEO Emma Walmsley scored slight pay raise

For her efforts in leading British pharma giant GSK through a transformational year, the company's CEO Emma Walmsley nabbed a slight pay raise last year. 

Walmsley collected 8.45 million pound sterling ($10.17 million) in 2022, a 3% increase from the prior year, according to GSK's annual report (PDF).

The compensation package came after Walmsley, in her sixth year at the helm, refocused GSK around innovative medicines and vaccines by spinning off the company's consumer health group into a standalone business called Haleon.

Among her European Big Pharma peers, Walmsley’s 2022 compensation came above Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan’s 8.4 million Swiss francs ($8.98 million) but below AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot’s 15.3 million pounds ($18.49 million)

The July 2022 separation of Haleon was a personal achievement for Walmsley. Before the spinoff, she weathered a wave of investor questioning surrounding her aptness for the GSK CEO job when she had previously only led the consumer health business.  

Still, her spinoff accomplishment was tarnished somewhat by GSK’s repeated setbacks in oncology. Meanwhile, a mess of litigation around old heartburn drug Zantac lawsuits has weighed on GSK’s stock performance.

Because of GSK’s share price drop, Walmsley last year realized no long-term equity awards under the total shareholder return metric in her compensation package. As a result, Walmsley took home 3.67 million pounds in that category. It marked a 52% payout against her goal, the lowest rate since she became the CEO in 2017.

For several years, Walmsley hasn’t been able to collect any shareholder return-related long-term incentives because GSK continues to lag its peers in that area.

Meanwhile, the biggest increase in Walmsley’s 2022 pay package came from her cash bonus. GSK’s board granted Walmsley a bonus worth 250% of her salary, which itself went up 3% to 1.26 million pounds last year. Most of the 3.14 million pound bonus will be deferred, GSK said.

Thanks in part to a strong rebound of shingles vaccine Shingrix, GSK’s sales and profit growth both came above the company’s target last year. GSK now counts 10 products with more than 1 billion pounds in annual sales.

When finalizing the Haleon spinoff, Walmsley outlined a target for the remaining GSK to achieve compounded annual sales growth of more than 5% from 2021 to 2026.

On other measures, Walmsley “clearly exceeded or met” her objectives, GSK’s board said in the annual report.

Despite the discontinuation of anti-GM-CSF antibody otilimab and a maternal RSV vaccine, GSK’s board found that the company made significant pipeline progress in 2022. On the R&D front, the company is advancing an older adult RSV vaccine but terminated a maternal program, and it’s developing hepatitis B candidate bepirovirsen and many other programs.

The acquisitions of Affinivax and Sierra Oncology plus an exclusive license agreement with Spero Therapeutics were also among Walmsley’s achievements.

Walmsley also brought on two important aides last year. Tony Wood succeeded Hal Barron as GSK’s chief scientific officer, and Burberry’s Julie Brown was named to succeed Iain Mackay as GSK’s chief financial officer in May 2023.

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to correct Hal Barron's name and to show that GSK is advancing the older adult RSV vaccine.