On This Day In Finance: July 28 - Pfizer CEO Gets $180 Million Handshake

By Investopedia Staff | July 27, 2009 AAA

On July 28, 2006, then Pfizer CEO Henry McKinnell resigned from his position as CEO of the company, receiving a benefit and compensation package of $180 million in the process. The package, according to SEC filings, included $82 million in pension benefits, $78 million in deferred compensation, a $12 million severance and $2 million in bonus payments.

Henry McKinnell began his career with the pharmaceutical company in the early 1970s and held various positions over the course of 30 years until he was appointed chairman and CEO of Pfizer in 2001. Henry McKinnell was a determined advocate of trade sanctions against nations that would not honor the company's patents and intellectual property, leading many to view him as a ruthless businessman who only concentrated on the bottom line. During his time as CEO, McKinnell also became known as a hard line negotiator and led the company into multiple mergers and acquisitions, increasing the company's size and scope. However as a result of the stock-for-stock transactions during these mergers Pfizer shares sank approximately 40% during his leadership.

As investor dissatisfaction grew, amidst reports of McKinnell's elaborate salary and benefits package, along with the overall poor performance of the company's shares, McKinnell was pressured into vacating his position of CEO. To this day, the $180 million golden handshake that Henry McKinnell received on his way out is still one of the largest severance packages ever awarded. (For more, see Executive Compensation: How Much Is Too Much? and Evaluating Executive Compensation.)

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