AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot last year secured the biggest pay deal in his history, taking his total earnings to £135m during his 12 years in charge.
The former chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant earned £16.9 million in 2023, the fifth year in a row in which he took home more than £15 million.
Soriot, 64, is credited with turning around the fortunes of the London-listed drugmaker.
Since taking the reins in October 2012, AstraZeneca’s share price has more than tripled, adding £115 billion to its value.
And he oversaw the development of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine that allowed lockdowns to be lifted during the pandemic.
Pay deal: AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot earned £16.9m in 2023, fifth year in a row he has taken home more than £15m
But critics say Soriot earns too much: about 1,000 times more than a minimum wage worker and 100 times more than many AstraZeneca employees.
The French businessman is hoping for an even bigger payday of £18.9 million this year.
However, a scenario outlined in the company’s annual report showed the total amount could rise to up to £25 million if the shares rose by 50 per cent.
High Pay Center spokesman Andrew Speke said: “While having effective leadership is clearly necessary to run a company the size of AstraZeneca, it is also fair to question whether Pascal Soriot’s contribution to (the company) has actually been much greater. than that of many of his colleagues. whose experience and hard work have probably also played an important role in the company’s success.’
But analysts said Soriot was the driving force behind Astra Zeneca’s transformation.
“The fact that AstraZeneca remains a major global player is a testament to the CEO, its management team and the strategy so far,” said Richard Hunter, chief investment officer at Interactive Investor.
AstraZeneca’s profits hit £5.5bn in 2023, up from £1.9bn the previous year, while sales rose 3 per cent to £36.3bn. Soriot’s pay package for last year included his base salary of £1.4m, a £2.8m bonus and £12.3m from AstraZeneca’s long-term incentive plan.
The businessman also received £140,000 in benefits and a pension of £157,000.
Salary has been a constant source of controversy for the pharmaceutical company boss.
After earning £13m in 2018, Soriot complained he was “the lowest-paid chief executive in the entire industry” after bosses at rival biotech companies abroad earned more.
AstraZeneca was also rocked by a pay dispute in 2021, when almost 40 per cent of shareholder votes were cast against increasing Soriot’s total remuneration to a maximum of £17.8 million.
At the time, the board said the CEO was worth the money, noting the “notable change” since he took over, and his supporters embraced the changes to avoid being poached.
Shareholders also rebelled over salaries at the company’s annual general meetings in 2014, 2017 and 2018.
Executive pay is back in the spotlight amid concerns that higher-paying US companies could poach top UK executives.
The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is reportedly preparing to almost double its boss David Schwimmer’s potential earnings from £6.25m to £11m.
Julia Hoggett, who heads LSEG’s securities arm, warned last year that British companies must pay more to attract top talent. She said: “The alternative is to sit idly by while our biggest exports become skills, talent, tax revenues and the companies that generate them.”
AstraZeneca shares fell 2.1 per cent, or 214p, to 10,204p.