Michael Severino, AbbVie

2014 pay package: $11.5 million
2013 pay package: Not disclosed
Change: N/A
2014 compensation: $503,750 in salary; $1 million in bonus cash; $7.7 million worth of stock awards; $734,916 in options; $1.2 million in nonequity incentive pay; $188,911 in pension contributions; and $205,104 in other compensation

AbbVie's ($ABBV) Michael Severino, appointed in May 2014, is the shortest-tenured member of this year's list, but a generous stock handshake helped the former Amgen ($AMGN) exec more than close the gap in just over 6 months of service.

Severino replaced John Leonard, who had been with the company since the Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) days, and quickly outpaced his predecessor's pay, as Leonard topped out at $5.5 million a year before his 2013 retirement. And Severino, who finished his 10-year stint at Amgen as chief medical officer, beat out that company's head of R&D, Sean Harper, who cleared $5.4 million in 2014 and didn't make the top 10.

Which is to say AbbVie, like Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX), is paying top dollar to bring in an outsider it believes can shepherd its R&D division into a brighter future. Two years removed from spinning out of Abbott, AbbVie is angling to take a place among the industry's biggest players, spending big on research as the dawn of biosimilars threatens Humira, its megablockbuster cash cow.

Taking the helm of development, Severino is tasked with guiding AbbVie's wide late-stage pipeline through the regulatory process. Leading the way is a trio of cancer drugs, elotuzumab, veliparib and ABT-199, now moving through Phase III. Alongside partner Biogen ($BIIB), the company is awaiting a final FDA decision on the multiple sclerosis treatment daclizumab, and AbbVie has high hopes for the Neurocrine Biosciences ($NBIX)-licensed elagolix, an endometriosis drug that succeeded in the first of two planned Phase III trials.

At the same time, AbbVie is all in on a pair of franchises it hopes can become Humira-like cornerstones moving forward. Earlier this year, the company paid a whopping $21 billion for Pharmacyclics and its 50% share of Imbruvica, a Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)-partnered blood cancer treatment AbbVie believes can keep racking up approvals and growing its market share. And, in hepatitis C, the company scored a major victory with the 2014 approval of Viekira Pak, a rival to Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) blockbuster Harvoni, and AbbVie hopes to keep up the momentum with new combo treatments that promise to cure more patients more quickly.

- here's the proxy

For more:
AbbVie, Neurocrine report a PhIII win for blockbuster contender elagolix
Amgen snags KAI Pharma's CKD program in $315M buyout
Severino tapped to helm Amgen's global development team

Michael Severino, AbbVie
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