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AstraZeneca CEO snared more than $18M last year as his company worked through highs and lows of vaccine launch

While AstraZeneca’s 2021 COVID-19 shot sales paled in comparison to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine revenues, the British drugmaker remained a pandemic force—and its CEO is poised to collect a hefty pay package for the year.

AZ CEO Pascal Soriot scored about 13.86 million pounds sterling ($18.76 million) in total pay for 2021, AstraZeneca said in its annual report published this month. The helmsman collected a little more than 1.32 million pounds in base pay, plus 123,000 pounds in taxable benefits and another 146,000 pounds in pension pay. The CEO rounded out 2021 with a 3.15 million pound bonus, plus a little more than 9 million pounds in long-term incentives.

2021 marked another “truly exceptional year” with Soriot holding the reins, AstraZeneca said in the report. The company specifically highlighted Soriot’s leadership amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2021, Mr Soriot continued to work tirelessly with multiple Government policy makers, Ministers of Health and Heads of State around the world in order to secure production and delivery of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria,” the company said.

Soriot helped ensure AZ was the first drugmaker to sign up to the global vaccine distribution program COVAX, AstraZeneca pointed out. Meanwhile, within a year of the first AZ vaccine dose rolling off the production line, the company and its partners have deployed more than 2.5 billion doses worldwide.

Despite the successes, the company acknowledged its legal troubles with the EU over delivery delays early last year. AZ ultimately reached a settlement and committed to deliver 200 million doses on an agreed schedule over the second half of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the company noted.

As for the CEO’s bonus, Soriot’s 3.15 million pound windfall represented 95% of the maximum amount possible, which would have been 250% of his 1.32 million pound base pay. Last May, the CEO’s 2021 pay plan drew ire from proxy advisers Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ICC), which raised concerns over AZ’s proposal to boost the maximum bonuses and equity awards Soriot could collect.

At the time, AZ’s board was seeking investor approval to lift Soriot’s maximum long-term equity incentive awards to 650% of his 2021 base salary, up from the 550% previously allowed. It also wanted to raise his 2021 maximum annual bonus to 250% of his salary, from 200%.

“The rationale for these changes is not considered to be sufficiently compelling,” ISS analysts wrote in a proxy research report last year. Glass Lewis, for its part, branded the increases “excessive.”

Still, Soriot’s 2021 pay came in below the $21.52 million he made in 2020. All told, AstraZeneca generated revenues of about $26.62 billion that year versus about $37.42 billion in 2021. That 38% revenue increase came thanks in part to $4 billion in COVID-19 vaccine revenues for the year.

But with its vaccine taking a back seat to mRNA shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in wealthier nations, AstraZeneca has pivoted some of its pandemic focus to its long-acting COVID-19 antibody cocktail Evusheld, also known as tixagevimab plus cilgavimab.

The company recently locked up agreements to sell the U.S. government 1.7 billion doses of the antibody combo. The total value for the manufacture, distribution and storage of Evusheld is $855 million, an AZ spokesperson recently told Fierce Pharma over email.

Elsewhere, many drugmakers have yet to release their CEO pay figures for 2021. Of those that have surfaced so far, Roche CEO Severin Schwan collected total pay worth 11.49 million Swiss francs ($12.48 million) last year, while Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan scored a pay package worth 11.22 million Swiss francs ($12.18 million).