With Pfizer struggling in 2023, CEO Albert Bourla hit with 35% pay cut to $21.6M

Pfizer knew 2023 was going to be a challenging year of transition. But even the drugmaker was surprised by the plummeting demand for its COVID-19 products, missing badly on its 2023 guidance. When the year was over, the company’s revenue was down 41% and its shares had plunged by 44%.

So, it’s no surprise that Pfizer’s execs felt the pinch in their 2023 compensation. CEO Albert Bourla took a 35% hit in his pay as it fell (PDF) from $33 million in 2022 to $21.6 million last year, according to a regulatory filing.

With the company raking in huge profits during the pandemic years, Bourla ranked No. 2 among industry CEOs in 2021 at $24.3 million and No. 3 in 2022 as he made $33 million. But his compensation last year will likely knock him out of the top 10. Just this week, Johnson & Johnson reported that its CEO Joaquin Duato's 2023 pay has hit $28.4 million.

The biggest change in the compensation for Bourla, 62, was with his non-equity incentive plan pay which dropped from $7.65 million to nil in 2023. None of the Pfizer C-suite members received an award in this category.

As it was drawn up before the year, the maximum incentive award Bourla could have received in 2023 was $8.9 million. In 2021 and 2022, Bourla nearly maxed out his incentive ceiling. He has been the CEO since 2019.

Pfizer explained in its proxy that one of the categories on which it bases compensation is whether sales targets are reached. The goal for 2023 was $68.8 billion, which was in line with the company’s revenue guidance entering the year of between $67 billion and $71 billion. Instead, Pfizer’s revenue came up woefully short at $58.5 billion.

While the company projected combined sales of COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty and COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid to reach $21.5 billion in 2023, they came to only $12.5 billion.

On the plus side, Bourla was credited in the proxy for completing the company’s $43 billion acquisition of Seagen in 2023 and for Pfizer’s record-setting year of approvals, gaining nine—with the company double counting a pair of endorsements for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine Abrysvo.

Breaking down Bourla’s compensation further, his equity awards for 2023 came to $17.5 million compared to $18.8 million in 2022. Another significant difference was in his change in pension value and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings which came to $2.5 million in 2022 but only reached $8,440 last year.

Another Pfizer exec who saw a major drop in pay was chief financial officer David Denton who made $5.3 million last year after raking in $24.4 million in 2022, the year he was hired as he received a $5 million bonus and $10.5 million in other compensation as inducements to join the firm.

Chief scientific officer Michael Dolsten saw his pay drop from $12.2 million to $8.9 million. The compensation for general counsel Douglas Lankler came to $5.5 million after he made $7.8 million in 2022. In his first year as chief U.S. commercial officer, Aamir Malik made $5.4 million.

Former Chief Commercial Officer Angela Hwang, who departed in December, made $6.7 million after collecting $9.7 million in 2022. Former Chief Development Officer William Pao, who departed in August, made $6.2 million after raking in $17.3 million in 2022.