Pharma's top jet-setting executives of 2018

Executive pay looks dramatically different among the world’s top biopharma companies, and so do the perks granted to CEOs and other top managers. While some companies limit such benefits, others don’t, and public disclosures about their so-called "other" compensation give us insights into what they're taking home alongside their paychecks.

Many top executives get company cars; other benefits seen throughout biopharma's pay disclosures include security systems, schooling for children and even event tickets. But there's one common benefit that varies wildly, and it's the one we've zeroed in on for this report: corporate jet use.

Last year, the top execs saw benefits in the jet department worth up to a sky-high $1.5 million. Here, we've focused on the top 13 execs' company aircraft use, with one caveat: GlaxoSmithKline’s Hal Barron didn’t make the rankings with his personal plane use, but his business tab is worth highlighting. 

Please enjoy reading through our roundup of the top jet-setting pharma execs, and let us know if you have any comments or questions. — Eric Sagonowsky (Email | Twitter) and Kyle Blankenship (Email | Twitter)

The top 10

1. Robert Coury, Mylan chairman, $1.5 million 

Robert Coury

Robert Coury has served at Mylan in various capacities for decades, working his way up to a long CEO stint from 2002 to 2012. Now, he’s chairman and enjoys a unique benefit each year: 70 hours of time on the company’s corporate jet or $1.5 million for unused time. In an SEC filing (PDF) in May, the company said the chairman used the aircraft for 26.5 personal hours last year and pocketed $947,524 for unused time.  

That benefit places him in a league of his own above other executives in the rankings. Despite criticism from some market watchers, the company said it plans to continue honoring the setup in 2019. 

2. Richard Gonzalez, AbbVie chairman and CEO, $598,447 

AbbVie's Richard Gonzalez may have been the executive to face the most pay scrutiny this year, due to the company's efforts to protect megablockbuster Humira. In fact, he even faced congressional attention on the issue at a drug-pricing hearing.

But Gonzalez’s “other” pay didn’t get any scrutiny at the hearing or after, despite the fact that he's biopharma’s top CEO by personal use of corporate aircraft. Last year, he ran up (PDF) a $598,447 tab on the company’s jet, far outranking other CEOs and only falling short of Coury’s unique $1.5 million benefit. Gonzalez also got a company car last year to the tune of $21,030 that went into his “other” pay. 

Ian Read

3. Ian Read, Pfizer’s former CEO, current executive chairman, $256,130 

Ian Read didn’t hand over the CEO baton at Pfizer until the start of 2019, and during his last year at the helm, he bumped up (PDF) his usage of the company’s aircraft. In 2017, his usage totaled $162,638. In 2018, his usage leapt significantly to $256,130.  

Pfizer says a security study determined that its CEO and COO “must use company-provided aircraft for all air travel, including personal travel, to the maximum extent practicable.” That stipulation includes travel with spouses, which is tacked onto “other” pay. Further, the company says travel to board meetings is considered “personal travel” for pay purposes, which likely drove travel expenses higher for Read and Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s new CEO and then-chief operating officer.

4. Len Schleifer, Regeneron CEO, $237,669 and
5. George Yancopoulos, Regeneron R&D head, $130,017 

Like Pfizer, Regeneron’s board has implemented a security policy that states the company’s CEO Len Schleifer and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos should, as “much as practicable,” use the company’s aircraft for personal and business travel. Last year, Schleifer tallied up $237,669 worth of travel in his “other” pay, according to a filing (PDF); Yancopoulos’ total came to $130,017. Schleifer’s car costs came to $24,401, while Yancopoulos totted up $5,212 in car expenses. 

The company pays for up to $250,000 in personal travel each year for each exec. Family and other guests can accompany them, but the execs must pay for additional costs for guests, such as catering, in certain cases. 

Alex Gorsky

6. Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO, $118,440

Johnson & Johnson employs a corporate travel policy that is "intended to enhance productivity, minimize distractions, and ensure the safety of our executives." For CEO Alex Gorsky, that equated to $118,440 in air travel in 2018. J&J attributed around 63% of that total to fuel costs and the other 37% to landing fees, handling charges, crew expenses and other incidentals.

In his sixth year at the helm of J&J, Gorsky saw his overall compensation drop around 32% on the year to $20.1 million. Gorsky also netted a $56,613 personal car allowance, 76% of which went to a driver's overtime, the company said. He also scored $2,300 in home security fees. 

7. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO and former COO, $106,445

Now in the first year of his stint as Pfizer's CEO, former COO Albert Bourla has big shoes to fill after the departure of eight-year helmsman Ian Read. But in terms of corporate-paid travel, Bourla was already being rewarded on par with industry leaders. In 2018, Bourla racked up $106,445 in company jet use and an additional $9,453 in car allowances. 

Both Read and Bourla are required to use corporate-provided transportation "to the maximum extent practicable," according to a Pfizer security study, which includes travel to board meetings and transport for spouses. Bourla was also provided $1,092 in home security fees on the year.

Heather Bresch

8. Heather Bresch, Mylan CEO, $98,268

It's been a rough few years for Mylan amid a stock price dwindle and investor unrest. For CEO Heather Bresch, dire financial straits corresponded with less time in the air in 2018. Bresch totted up $98,286 in personal air travel on the year with an additional $20,826 car allowance. 

Bresch, a longtime Mylan employee and the first woman to run a major biopharma firm, saw her corporate air travel cut by almost half in the two years between 2016 and 2018. In 2016, her air travel bill hit $184,020, nearly double what she notched two years later. 

9. Robert Bradway, Amgen chairman and CEO, $88,884

Amgen's corporate air travel policy is all about seniority: On any flight with multiple C-level passengers, the highest-ranked executive is attributed the incremental costs of the flight, including fuel and landing fees. That means Chairman and CEO Robert Bradway received the bulk of Amgen's air travel costs in 2018. Bradway racked up $88,884 in corporate jet use on the year, with an additional $4,091 car allowance. 

One interesting exception to Amgen's policy: All on-board catering is paid by each executive, meaning you pay for what you eat. 

Another notable figure from Amgen's proxy filing: Murdo Gordon, executive vice president of global commercial operations, racked up an impressive $213,287 in moving and relocation costs in 2018 after leaving Bristol-Myers Squibb, including a $94,283 in tax gross-ups.

Brent Saunders

10. Brent Saunders, Allergan chairman and CEO, $80,946 

Allergan and Brent Saunders both experienced a tough year in 2018, but the CEO still used the company's corporate jet for some personal time: His use tallied $80,946. Separately, Saunders' car expenses came to $3,212.

The figures came during a year that Saunders’ overall pay cratered due to struggles at the drugmaker, hitting $6.6 million last year from $32.8 million the year before. 


Honorable mentions


Ken Frazier, Merck chairman and CEO, $79,830

Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier placed himself firmly in the political spotlight in May 2018 after very publicly exiting a Trump administration manufacturing council over a difference in "basic values." But some of those D.C. trips could have contributed to Frazier's $79,830 in corporate paid air travel on the year. Frazier also notched a $48,907 personal car allowance. Merck's argument for providing personal travel benefits to its execs? "We believe there is a business purpose for the few personal benefits provided only to executives."

Kare Schultz, Teva CEO, up to $100,000 yearly

Unlike other drugmakers on this list, Teva Pharmaceutical caps its annual travel reimbursement for CEO Kåre Schultz at $100,000 per year as a stipulation in his contract—a figure Schultz undershot in 2018. On the year, Schultz was reimbursed $78,607 for personal travel expenses in his first full year on the job as Teva’s top man, according to the company’s April proxy (PDF) filing.

However, Schultz, who ranked as the second-highest paid executive in pharma in 2018, also benefited from a separate personal car allowance, which cost the company an additional $90,706. On the whole, Schulz cleared more than $33 million in total compensation last year.

Hal Barron, GlaxoSmithKline R&D head, $807,000 

Hal Barron’s travel expenses were a unique case. His travel wasn’t considered personal, but the expenses jumped off of GSK’s pay report (PDF). Last year, Barron racked up $464,314 in travel expenses and his U.K. accommodations cost $294,547. Barron, who joined GSK in late 2017, is based in San Francisco but travels globally and to the U.K. regularly to lead the company’s R&D operations.