11. Ian Read, Pfizer
2018 pay: $19.55 million
2017 pay: $27.91 million
In 2017, Pfizer’s board gave then-CEO Ian Read a massive 61% pay hike, increasing his total compensation to $27.9 million in hopes he wouldn’t jump ship and join a rival company. But much of that package consisted of equity-based incentives—the value of which dropped last year when Read handed over the CEO reins earlier than expected.
Pfizer announced in October that Read would step into the role of executive chairman, giving the CEO spot to former Chief Operating Officer Albert Bourla as of January this year. With that move, Read’s total 2018 compensation was slashed by 30% as he saw his long-term incentive award drop 38% to $8 million.
Still, calling Read’s compensation package a punishment would be an overstatement. Pfizer hiked (PDF) his 2018 salary by 2% to almost $2 million and nudged up his bonus from $2.6 million to $3 million as he stepped into an advisory role. Plus he snared a special equity bonus of $8 million—though that’s contingent on the company’s stock returning 25% or more on average for 30 consecutive days before 2023.
Pfizer returned nearly that much to shareholders in 2018; the company advanced 42 of the drugs in its pipeline and scored seven FDA approvals. Many of those came from Pfizer’s oncology unit, which won agency green lights for the PARP inhibitor Talzenna in breast cancer, the ALK inhibitor Lorbrena and EGFR-targeted Vizimpro in non-small cell lung cancer, and leukemia drug Daurismo.
If there was anything that disappointed investors during Read’s nine-year tenure as CEO, it was his inability to complete a widely expected merger with AstraZeneca in 2014. But Read did separate Pfizer’s consumer and generics units, setting both up for potentially lucrative sales or spinoffs. Bourla will now take the brunt of shareholder angst over the lack of a revenue-boosting merger, especially as the company’s pain blockbuster Lyrica faces a patent expiration.
Meanwhile, Read’s pay package will continue to drop in 2019. His base salary will be cut by 40% and his long-term incentive package will fall from $13 million to $8 million. To get the full value of his special equity bonus, he’ll have to stay on board for another two years. When he does retire, though, it will be quite comfortably, to say the least: His pension package is worth nearly $15 million.