George Yancopoulos, Regeneron scientist, is top paid in NYC metro area with $81.6M pay

George D. Yancopoulos, Chief Scientific Officer for Regeneron George D. Yancopoulos, Chief Scientific Officer for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc; Mario Joseph Gabell, Executive Chairman for Gamco Investors Inc; and Samuel J. Palmisano, Former Chairman of International Business Machines Corp, are the highest paid executives for 2013 in the Hudson Valley. Photo Credit: Handout/Getty Images

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The board of directors at Tarrytown's Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has slapped an $81.6 million set of golden handcuffs on a key executive, giving him the heftiest 2012 compensation package not only in the Hudson Valley, but the entire New York City metropolitan area.

George Yancopoulos, chief scientific officer of Regeneron, beat out not only last year's top Hudson Valley earner Mario Gabelli, founder and chief executive of Rye-based Gamco Investors, and the corporate chieftains of IBM and PepsiCo, but the occupants of corner offices in every publicly traded company on Long Island and in New York City.

That includes corporate icons such as master of fashion Ralph Lauren, private equity titan Henry Kravis and media mogul Sumner Redstone.

Brian Foley, an executive compensation consultant at White Plains-based Brian Foley & Co., said the astronomical compensation package coincided with pyrotechnics by Regeneron stock.

"It's a very successful company and you've got a key player getting a boatload of stock," he said. "Obviously this stock has gone through the roof."

Why did Regeneron's board make Yancopoulos an $82 million man, giving the executive vice president compensation that eclipses that of Len Schleifer, the chief executive?

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The answer is a blockbuster drug called Eylea that Yancopoulos shepherded through clinical trials before it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. That drug helped triple the company's revenue to $1.4 billion in 2012 and catapulted the company to a market capitalization north of $20 billion and into the top ranks of biotechnology.

Schleifer, for the record, took home $30 million in 2012, still good for No. 4 in the Hudson Valley.

Mark Halloran, a senior partner at compensation consultant Mercer, said restricted stock -- in Yancopoulos' case, 500,000 shares worth more than $57 million when granted in June 2012 -- typically is used as a retention tool.

"I would have to assume that he's highly valuable," Halloran said. "He must be doing something so they would want to make sure he wouldn't want to consider going anywhere."

The restricted stock vests in December 2017, providing a monetary incentive to stay with the company.

Though the restricted stock award to Yancopoulos was worth a pretty penny when it was granted, Foley noted that stock appreciation has pushed its value higher. At midday June 24, the shares were worth almost $108 million.

Foley also said that the grant is unusual in that it carries no "performance conditions . . . and is only conditioned on his continued service."

Eylea, which is used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly, notched U.S. sales of $838 million in its first full year, making it one of the most successful drug launches in history. With more drugs in the pipeline, the company turned profitable in 2012 and made its 2,000th hire in March.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

No. 2 on the Hudson Valley's compensation list is Gabelli. The Wall Street money manager took home $69 million in 2012.

Third on the list at $37.1 million was Samuel Palmisano, who served as chairman of Armonk-based IBM until October 2012. He was succeeded by Virginia "Ginni" Rometty, who added the title of chairman to her chief executive role. She earned $16.2 million, good enough for the seventh spot in the Hudson Valley.

Rounding out the top 10: No. 6 Martin Franklin, executive chairman of Rye-based consumer products maker Jarden Corp., at $17.2 million; No. 8 Indra Nooyi, chief executive of Purchase-based PepsiCo, at $14.2 million; No. 9, Alberto Weisser, chairman of White Plains-based agricultural products giant Bunge Ltd., at $12.7 million, and No. 10 Neil Stahl, senior vice president of Regeneron, at $12 million.

So who in the corporate world had a bigger payout than Yancopoulos?

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison -- believed by some to be the inspiration for Tony Stark, the alter ego of Iron Man -- got a package of stock, options and cash worth a cool $96.2 million.

You also may be interested in: