Pfizer's new boss Bourla nets $17.9M in 2019 pay after drugmaker beats all financial targets

Albert Bourla officially took over as Pfizer CEO first thing in 2019. His total compensation jumped 82% over the previous year, when he was the Big Pharma’s chief operating officer, and reached $17.9 million.

Promotion to Pfizer’s top job wasn’t the only factor that boosted Bourla’s 2019 pay, though. In fact, the drugmaker beat all three financial goals used to evaluate an exec’s cash bonus.

For 2019, Bourla netted $3.63 million in total annual incentive awards on the back of the company’s strong business performance, according to a securities filing (PDF). 

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Specifically, Pfizer hauled in $52.4 billion in 2019 revenue, ahead of the board’s target of $51.7 billion. Adjusted diluted earnings per share stood at $3.00, versus the $2.81 goal. Cash flow also exceeded the benchmark of $11.6 billion to reach $12.9 billion.

On that account, Bourla’s 2019 bonus was better than what his predecessor, Ian Read, took in the previous year. Because of a slight revenue shortfall—$54.3 billion actual against a $54.5 billion target—Read only received $3 million for his 2018 annual incentive reward, even though his salary was higher.

Before Read transitioned to executive chairman, he was getting a $2 million salary in 2018, his eighth year as CEO of the New York drugmaker. As for Bourla, in his first year holding the reins, his 2019 salary was $1.6 million.

For the 2017-19 performance-based payout, Bourla collected $1.58 million. The actual award value, at $34.72 per share as of the end of February, actually took a hit thanks to the recent coronavirus-related stock market turbulence. Last year, Read’s PSA payout for the 2016-18 period was $14.91 million at $42.93 per share.

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Still, the Pfizer board was full of praise for its new helmsman. Under Bourla, Pfizer successfully completed the consumer health joint venture merger with GlaxoSmithKline’s counterpart unit ahead of schedule, creating the largest over-the-counter business globally.

To further focus Pfizer on higher-margin innovative therapies, Pfizer agreed to offload its China-headquartered established drugs unit, Upjohn, to Mylan. It came just as the country’s value-based bulk procurement program threatens multinational pharmas’ off-patent drugs, which have been enjoying growth there despite declines in developed markets.

And as it slimmed down in those sectors, Pfizer also made progress on the innovative biopharma front under Bourla’s watch. It shelled out a hefty $11.4 billion to acquire Array BioPharma, marking another cancer-focused investment after its 2016 Medivation buy.

Speaking of Medivation, Astellas-partnered Xtandi, the cornerstone of that acquisition, racked up a new FDA approval in metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer toward the end of 2019, matching Johnson & Johnson’s rival Erleada in the same setting. For 2019, Xtandi delivered $838 million in U.S. revenue for Pfizer, up 20% year over year.

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Perhaps the most important FDA nod for Pfizer last year was for its ATTR drug tafamidis, now sold under the brands Vyndaqel and Vyndamax. Industry watchers have pegged megablockbuster peak sales projections to that therapy. And so far, it hasn't disappointed, posting Street-beating sales numbers quarter after quarter. The med’s total global sales reached $473 million in its first U.S. launch year.

Last year, Pfizer also recruited former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to its board, a move that has drawn criticism given how quickly the former drug regulation czar reentered the industry side. After joining at the end of June, Gottlieb nabbed $231,621 in 2019 compensation.