Over the last five years, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has pulled in an average of $17.4 million in yearly bonuses, a figure that places him at the top of Big Pharma’s extra payouts but only 24th among industrywide chief executives at top companies.
Among the 50 companies with the highest market cap, Tesla CEO Elon Musk drove away with the largest five-year average bonus of a whopping $456.8 million, more than quadrupling the $98.9 million raked in by Alphabet and Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, according to a report from financial services website The Stock Dork. And Pichai’s bonus was more than double the next on the list, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who made an average $53.4 million each year.
Indeed, many of the top bonuses came to CEOs in tech, banking and telecommunication. Pharma’s bonuses, while still sizable by any definition, were much more modest.
Not far behind Bourla were AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez with an average bonus of $17.3 million over five years, Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks with $16.5 million, Johnson & Johnson CEO Joaquin Duato with $15.7 million and Merck & Co. CEO Robert Davis with $7.9 million. Duato and Davis only entered the chief executive positions in 2022.
Of course, there’s more in a CEO’s pay than just bonuses. And industry observers are tracking a number of data points to better understand how life sciences CEO pay packages compare to other industries — and to those within the pharma realm.
Bourla took home a total of $33 million last year, still topping the list of highest paid Big Pharma chiefs, but he wasn’t the only one to see a big payday. Smaller companies sometimes take that honor under extraordinary circumstances. For example, Seagen’s rotating cast of three CEOs in 2022 — David Epstein, Roger Dansey and Clay Siegall — pulled in $57.5 million, $36.4 million and $32.8 million, respectively. Then, Pfizer bought the company for $43 billion.
And then there are the stock options that brought $393 million to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel’s doorstep in 2022. That falls well short of Musk’s $2.3 billion in stocks and options bonuses in 2018 — a record-breaking anomaly — but shines brightly in the biopharma industry.
Stock options also swing the other direction based on timing. Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer, who in 2021 made $446 million exercising stock options on top of a $6.5 million compensation package, last year made just $7 million with no other awards.
One factor compensation experts are looking at more closely these days is the ratio of CEO compensation to that of a median employee as economic inequality comes into sharper focus. In 2022, CEOs in the life sciences averaged more than 200 times their median employee pay, according to a report from BioSpace.
The highest CEO-to-median employee ratio went to Sarepta CEO Douglas Ingram, who brought in $124.9 million as a result of stocks and options. With the median employee making $249,890 — notably one of the highest in the industry — Ingram’s take-home package was almost 500 times that.
Bourla made this list, as well. The pharma leader’s total compensation of over $33 million was 437 times the median employee pay of $75,536 in 2022, according to the report. Across industries, U.S. CEOs’ pay rose 7.7% last year.