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Health care CEOs top highest-paid list

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 16, 2011
Three of the 10 highest-paid CEOs in the country work in health care, according to a new report from corporate governance group GMI, with McKesson Corp.’s chief topping the list.

The survey, released Thursday, examined proxy filings from 2,132 companies on the Russell 3000 and S&P 500.

John H. Hammergen, the McKesson CEO occupying the number one spot, brought home $145 million in "realized compensation" for 2010.This includes a base salary of $1.6 million, plus the exercising of 3.3 million stock options to the tune of $112 million, and other benefits, pension payment increases and perks.

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The number two on the list, Joel F. Gemunder, head of Omnicare, retired in the middle of last year, after commanding the firm for nine years. He earned about $98 million.

In general, departures helped boost this year's figures, GMI said, as four out of 10 of the highest-paid CEOs saw their bottom lines engorged by generous exit packages, though selling stock helped, too. The CEO of Aetna Inc., Ronald A. Williams, ninth on the list, retired in April 2010. GMI said $50 million of his $57 million compensation package came from exercising stock options.

Of course, GMI said pay couldn't always be clearly tied to performance. It noted that during Williams' four-year run, Aetna's stock fell 30 percent, from $43.18 to $30.51. However, it did note that under Hammergen's 10-year tenure, McKesson's stock value has risen more than 117 percent.

Overall, total realized compensation rose a median 27 percent, while annual compensation went up 13 percent.

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