Drug Development

The $140,672,343 man: Why does Brent Saunders have the richest golden parachute in biopharma?

Live by the deal, profit by the deal.

If any company can succeed where Pfizer failed and take over Allergan, CEO Brent Saunders may be perfectly content to step aside. In a new listing of the top golden parachutes on record, Bloomberg put the wheeler-dealer in the number 5 position overall, with $140,672,343 waiting by the exit. And that’s the biggest, brightest golden parachute in biopharma’s corporate closet.

Brent Saunders, Allergan

Brent Saunders, Allergan

Few people would have thought that Saunders would be in the top position when he was named CEO of Forest Labs less than three eventful years ago. But he landed in the right spot — just a few months after flipping Bausch + Lomb — at exactly the right time. Actavis came along with an offer Forest couldn’t refuse, and then put Saunders in charge. He turned around and acquired Allergan, adopting the name, and executed a deal to sell the generics business to Teva. Then, when it was all coming to a head with a Pfizer takeover bid, the feds stepped in and changed the tax rules, scrapping a megamerger that would have altered the landscape in biopharma one more time.

It’s no wonder that Saunders name quickly surfaced as a potential bidder for Biogen, but he’s done nothing but pour cold water on that rumor. Saunders now insists he’s sticking with his ‘growth pharma’ strategy, shunning big M&A deals and buying businesses in one bite-sized portion at a time. I doubt any of that, though, will keep Saunders’ name out of the rumor mill.

Who else is from biopharma is on the top 20 list from Bloomberg? Len Schleiffer, who spent years building Regeneron into one of the big biotechs to watch, comes in in 18th place at a bit more than $90 million. And then there’s Healther Bresch, CEO of Mylan, who would collect an $87.8 million payout.

That’s a lot of money, but it all pales in comparison, though, to the $358 million Steve Wynn has packed into his casino company’s golden parachute, number one on the list.

Saunders does have an added reason to treasure his golden parachute. When Pfizer briefly came calling, the board assured its execs that anyone not landing a new job at Pfizergan would have their taxes covered on the exit packages. Another reason to take comfort.

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John Carroll, Editor and Co-Founder

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