Regeneron CEO Schleifer, chief scientist Yancopoulos bag massive $270M payday

Len Schleifer
Regeneron's chief scientist George Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., himself scored a $134.38 million pay package for 2020. (WSJ)

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals solidified its position in the COVID-19 fight last year with an emergency nod for its antibody cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab—one of the few coronavirus treatments to win the FDA's blessing.

For leading those efforts and others, Regeneron awarded CEO Len Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., a staggering $135.35 million in 2020 pay. His salary came in at about $1.5 million, and the CEO collected another $3.5 million in cash incentive pay.

But the portion of Schleifer's pay package that sets him apart from the rest of the industry—and will likely dominate discussions about the top paid chiefs in biopharma for years to come—is the $130 million he earned in stock awards. That's a more than 2,500% increase over the $4.98 million in stocks Schleifer scored in 2019. Altogether, the chief executive made $21.46 million that year.

Schleifer isn't the only member of Regeneron's C-suite to reap a massive 2020 payday. President and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., made $134.38 million for the year, with the biggest portion of his pay package also tied to a $130 million stock award payout.

Regeneron chose to give its two top execs five years of equity awards up front in 2020 and won't award them more stocks until December 2025, the company said. The awards can be earned "upon achievement of ambitious, predetermined cumulative [total shareholder return] goals over a primary performance period of five years," the proxy filing said.

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Throughout much of last year, Regeneron's attention was centered on its response to the pandemic. Over the span of 10 months, Regeneron ran its antibody cocktail through the clinic and came out the other side in November with an emergency use authorization. The company now has a supply deal with the U.S. government worth up to $2.63 billion.

The drug ginned up just $146 million during its first quarter on the market, but Regeneron is in line for a big payday if its U.S. supply pact plays out in its favor.

Meanwhile, the company's Sanofi-partnered immunology med Dupixent continued its ascent in 2020, reaching more than $4 billion in worldwide sales.

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Schleifer's 2020 pay puts him well ahead other biopharma chiefs, including those leading companies with authorized pandemic vaccines. Pfizer's Albert Bourla, Ph.D., earned a pay package worth more than $21 million for last year's work. AstraZeneca's Pascal Soriot nabbed £15.45 million ($21.52 million), and Johnson & Johnson's Alex Gorsky, who was at the top of the rankings until Regeneron posted its figures, collected $29.58 million.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that the large pay packages for Schleifer and Yancopoulos were the result of front-loaded five-year awards, not just Regeneron's pandemic response.