3. John Oyler, BeiGene
2018 pay: $27.90 million
2017 pay: $10.29 million
John Oyler is one rare example of a foreigner reaping early benefits from China’s booming biotech industry. After founding BeiGene in 2010, Oyler saw his personal wealth spike last year as the Chinese biotech’s Nasdaq stock jumped. And so did his pay package.
In 2018, Oyler racked up $27.9 million in total pay—versus $10.3 million for 2017—and ranked third on the world’s highest-paid biopharma executives list. Most of that package came in the form of equity grants, though—fitting, given the company had only $130.9 million in revenues the entire year.
Still, BeiGene’s board gave Oyler a 10% base salary bump, to about $650,000, and an additional $562,000 in incentive pay pushed the cash portion of his 2018 compensation to about $1.21 million. The value of his annual equity grant—1.5 million BeiGene shares—also increased as BeiGene’s stock price jumped.
But the biggest year-over-year difference came from a one-time, long-term incentive award valued at $15 million. The board handed Oyler the bonus options last April “in recognition of his extraordinary leadership and our achievements in 2017 and 2018 to date,” according to the company’s securities filing.
A lot has happened at BeiGene over the past two years. In 2017, Celgene paid $263 million upfront to collaborate on BeiGene’s experimental PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab. It also invested $150 million in BeiGene and transferred all its Chinese operations to the China-based company, giving BeiGene a commercial team and Chinese rights to Revlimid, Abraxane and Vidaza.
To better market those drugs and prepare for the expected approval and launch of tislelizumab, Oyler poached longtime Pfizer China head Xiaobin Wu, Ph.D., to be BeiGene’s president and general manager in China. Wu is credited with establishing Pfizer as the leading multinational pharma in China by sales.
Tislelizumab could face a tough road ahead, though. First, now that Celgene is merging with Opdivo developer Bristol-Myers Squibb, market watchers worry that the U.S. company will ditch the BeiGene partnership. That would leave BeiGene to navigate the global market on its own.
And in BeiGene's home country, the PD-1/L1 market is quickly turning crowded, with Opdivo and Merck & Co.’s Keytruda, as well as several domestically made PD-1s, having already launched or drawing near to their own Chinese approvals.