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Ian Read bags $19.5 million, taking a big pay cut for his swan song as Pfizer CEO and leaving the pharma giant at a crossroads

Ian Read passed the CEO title on to his hand picked successor Albert Bourla at the beginning of this year, but not before one last big haul of executive compensation. His overall number came down substantially from 2017, largely due to a big drop in the stock option column, but he still scored $19.5 million for 2018 compensation.

Read’s big retirement haul came in 2017, when he took home a chart-topping $27.9 million pay package that included an $8 million bonus for staying on an extra year. His victory lap at the pharma giant came as the company was facing a sea change in the industry, with a lid on annual price hikes and a shift to the internal pipeline.

Alex Gorsky speaks during a meeting between President Trump and manufacturing executives at the White House in February 2017 AP Photo


His number for 2018 leaves Read in the third place spot among Big Pharma pay packages, right behind J&J’s Alex Gorsky, who also saw his pay plunge in a perilous year for the industry’s major league players. They may earn top pay, but Big Pharma CEOs have a reputation that makes the corner used car salesmen look good in comparison.

Pfizer did manage to scoop up a slate of new cancer drug OKs toward the end of the year, but the company has traditionally relied on acquisitions and portfolio hikes to keep the numbers tuned up for Wall Street analysts. One of those avenues is being shut down, leaving analysts guessing about what Pfizer will do with its big cash reserve firepower.

Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of Pfizer, in New York City, January 2019 Drew Angerer/Getty Images


The pay numbers this year bode well for Bourla as he takes over the top spot at Pfizer. As COO he earned a much more modest $9.8 million in total compensation. That’s up $1 million from the year before. R&D chief Michael Dolsten, meanwhile, bagged $7 million, down from $7.67 million.

The CFO Frank D’Amelio also came in for a bit of a trim, landing at $7.1 million, down $1.2 million from his 2017 compensation. 


Featured image: Ian Read at a panel discussion in Washington, DC in September 2017 Bloomberg, Getty Images


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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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