He’s not the CEO of Apple or the leader of Google.
No, the U.S. CEO who likely earned the highest pay in 2015 thus far leads a relatively unknown Los Angeles-based cancer research firm, NantKwest (nk-2). His name is Patrick Soon-Shiong, and in 2015, the 63-year-old former surgeon earned a whopping $147.6 million.
That’s a head above the $100.5 million Google CEO Sundar Pinchai earned in the same year. And its 14 times the median amount that CEOs in about 400 of the U.S.’s largest companies were paid in the same year: $10.5 million. NantKWest’s own market cap is about $703 million, according to regulatory filings.
Soon-Shiong’s compensation comprised of a $1 base salary, $368,301 bonus, $15 million worth of stock awards, and $132.2 million worth in option awards. He joined the company in March 2015 after successfully creating and selling Abraxane, a drug that keeps cancerous cells from dividing. Although Soon-Shiong, has a hefty resume, the company that he is now leads is largely unproven.
Since NantKwest’s initial public offering last year, the stock has slipped 71%. That sell-off was partially spurred by accounting errors in the company’s third and fourth quarter earnings reports, which led to a class action lawsuit in March. The lawsuit alleged that NantKWest had failed to disclose errors related to Soon-Shiong’s stock-based awards.
The company is also in a peculiar area of cancer therapy development: immuno-oncology, or therapies that harness the bodies immune system to naturally attack cancerous cells. The therapy became popular in just the past few years, though investor confidence in the treatment took a hit last year. That’s because AstraZeneca, one of the biggest players on the immuno-oncology scene, paused two of its clinical trials on lung cancer in October. Early-stage biotech companies also do tend to be more volatile.
Beyond that, Soon-Shiong, NantKWest’s majority shareholder, also co-owns the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, and is worth about $9.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.