4. Ian Read - Pfizer

Ian Read
CEO, Pfizer
Total Compensation: $18.95 million

Professional Profile: Ian Read, 59, has spent his entire career at Pfizer ($PFE), joining the company in 1978 as an auditor. He job-hopped and globe-trotted, first through Latin America and then to Europe and on to corporate headquarters. Before taking over as CEO at the end of 2010, he was a corporate SVP and president of the worldwide pharma businesses.

Company Profile: Few biopharma CEOs talked as much as Ian Read did last year about remaking their companies. In 2013, Pfizer spun off its animal health unit, Zoetis ($ZTS), wrapped up a three-year R&D restructuring plan, and announced a three-way operational split as a prelude to more potential spinoffs. All that shareholder-friendly activity--plus share buybacks--made Read a popular guy among analysts and investors, at least in the press.

But Pfizer shares tracked right along with the rest of Big Pharma in 2013, with a gain on the year of just over 20%. Unless you count Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), which ended the year up 61%, and Roche ($RHHBY), whose American Depositary Shares closed 40% higher.

Unbeknownst to the public, however, Read had a brainstorm: Why not bulk up those three new units, to make them even more attractive as standalone prospects? And as we now know, before 2013 came to an end, Read had made a preliminary move on AstraZeneca ($AZN).

That bid is officially dead, at least for now. But in between deal-strategy sessions, Pfizer counted some R&D successes last year. The next-gen cholesterol fighter bococizumab, one of the hotly anticipated PCSK9 drugs, is so promising that Pfizer plans to plow hundreds of millions into outcomes trials, betting it can persuade price-conscious payers as well as the FDA. Palbociclib nabbed a breakthrough designation in HER2-negative breast cancer and looks set for an FDA application soon. And a bivalent meningitis vaccine delivered enough data to score a breakthrough label of its own early this year.

The only brand-new FDA approval, however, came in October, for the hormonal menopause-symptom treatment Duavee. And though Pfizer's other new products, like the the lung cancer treatment Xalkori and the rheumatoid arthritis remedy Xeljanz, delivered solid sales last year in their early days on the market, the company still stands in the Lipitor-loss shadow, with generic rivals for that megablockbuster sapping sales by the billions. Even Lyrica, the $4.6 billion seizure-and-pain drug that continues to grow in the double digits, couldn't make up for that.

With a 2014 forecast of $49.2 billion to $51.2 billion, down from last year's $51.6 billion in revenue, the company appears to be counting on continued cost cuts to keep margins up.

That was the news in January. For the first quarter of 2014, the results disappointed analysts who'd expected bigger margins in a couple of Pfizer's new operating units, which reported their own P&Ls for the first time.

Thing is, keeping investors and market-watchers trained on big-picture moves might be Read's way of making up for the less-than-stellar financials coming out of the company--not to mention the important R&D failures, such as the lung cancer candidate dacomitinib, which did a double crash-and-burn in two Phase III trials early this year. -- Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)

For more:
Special Report: 20 Highest-Paid Biopharma CEOs of 2012 - Ian Read - Pfizer
Pfizer to AstraZeneca: Say goodbye to our $120B offer
Parsing Pfizer's deal talk isn't an exercise. It's the tell on AstraZeneca's future
British PM wants more Pfizer promises, but pharma's merger vows are fleeting

4. Ian Read - Pfizer

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