Who’s the top earning CEO in biopharma? Martine Rothblatt once again hits top slot with $37M pay package

Forget Allergan CEO Brent Saunders’ hefty $33 million pay package for 2017. Ian Read, you and your $28 million Pfizer deal, complete with $1 million retention bonus, is just an also-ran for last year’s top pay package. Regeneron likes to pay top wages to co-founders Len Schleifer and George Yancopoulos — but they’re not close to the top spot. And J&J’s Alex Gorsky once again scored high, at $29 million, but isn’t the highest.

That prize evidently goes to United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt, who once again outstripped them all. United’s proxy shows that Rothblatt, with revenue that accounts for only a tiny slice of what the majors get, earned a compensation package worth $37.1 million. Most of that, of course, is for her stock options. And the full package runs over twice the $15 million deal she got in 2016.

Rothblatt is no stranger to big pay. She was the top earning female CEO in 2013, with $38 million to bank on.

“I think this [pay structure] is in the best interest of the shareholders,” she told a reporter at the time. “There’s a mantra about corporate governance about pay-for-performance so I said ‘okay I’ll take the risk that 100% of my bonus compensation will be based upon stock market performance.’”

But stock price wasn’t the key in the current proxy. In 2017 the stock started the year at $163.63 and finished at $129. 

The money this year puts Rothblatt — who underwent sex reassignment surgery more than 20 years ago — well beyond a well-paid executive team, with general counsel Paul Mahon taking $12.9 million and COO Michael Benkowitz earning compensation tallying $11.5 million.

United Therapeutics filed its proxy on Friday, three days before today’s announcement that United had acquired rival SteadyMed, eliminating a key patent threat in the process.

Image: Martine Rothblatt. AP IMAGES

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