Pharma CFOs grab spotlight in WSJ ranking

It's one thing to rank the highest-paid executives or the biggest public companies. Numbers tell that story, and numbers line themselves up, biggest to smallest, quite easily. It's another to pick the best of anything. But The Wall Street Journal gives it a try with a new ranking of the best CFOs, focusing on the executives who not only keep their own numbers in order, but also help craft company strategy. And pharma has reason to boast about this list: Of the 25 CFOs chosen, three hail from drugmakers.

There's No. 5, Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) Paul Clancy. He's been CFO since 2007, through three proxy fights with Carl Icahn and two CEOs. The biotech company has been growing revenues and profits, and delivering stock growth as well, the WSJ points out. It's his calm-in-the-storm approach that sets him apart, one Biogen board member told the newspaper.

Then there's No. 13, Allergan's ($AGN) Jeffrey Edwards. One of his claims to CFO fame is the 2006 acquisition of Inamed, which, the WSJ says, helped move Botox into new markets--and that's significant, because Allergan's success has depended on adding indications to its top-seller's list. Another: The company's 17.5% profit margin last year, after big legal charges and tax problems wiped out 2010 profits.

Finally, there's Judy Brown, CFO at the over-the-counter generics specialist Perrigo. She's overseen an increase in profit margin to 12.3% last year, up from 5.1% in 2007, while revenues doubled to $2.8 billion. Perrigo snapped up 8 companies over that time frame; Brown led the charge on at least one of them, the $800 million PBM buyout, which expanded Perrigo into infant formula. She's said to be highly disciplined, but a strategic thinker involved in all the company's deals. One CFO recruiter calls her "a superstar."

- get more from the WSJ