Merck chief's 2008 pay ticks upward

Merck CEO Richard Clark (photo) got a $200,000 pay raise in 2008, barely a bump compared with the big hike in compensation he enjoyed in 2007. But that growth still beats the raise he'll get for 2009: Nada.

Still, the violins aren't playing for Clark. He took in $19.9 million in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. That's up from $19.7 million in 2007 (but you already knew that, because you're all math whizzes, right?). The $200,000 difference came from a base-salary boost of that same amount.

For 2009, Clark is taking the newly popular approach of foregoing a raise. According to Merck's proxy statement, the board approved Clark's request for no raise "in light of the challenging business environment and the resulting difficult but necessary decisions taken by the company, and the competitive positioning of Mr. Clark's salary." That's business-speak for "tough economy" and "cost-cutting and layoffs" and "Clark's compensation already beats lots of pharma CEO paychecks."

As the WSJ points out, Merck's' shares fell by almost half in 2008 as sales of some of its top products slowed down. Plus, the company has laid off thousands of workers, including some sales reps cut from the payroll this week.

- read the Dow Jones story
- check out the Health Blog post