• Walbert gets $47 million in options, $43 million in shares
  • Awards let executives `share in the value created,' proxy says

Horizon Pharma Plc gave Chief Executive Officer Timothy Walbert a $93.4 million pay package for 2015, a 10-fold increase from the previous year as the company came under scrutiny for its distribution practices.

Walbert received stock options valued at $47.4 million and $43.5 million in restricted shares, according to a preliminary proxy filed Tuesday. The options and about a quarter of the shares will vest over four years, with the remaining stock vesting in 2018 if the firm meets performance targets. His pay package for 2014 was $8.97 million.

The equity awards were granted after the board determined that executives hadn’t had “the opportunity to share in the value created” from Horizon’s share price increase in earlier years due to their relatively low ownership stakes, according to the proxy. Walbert also got $859,375 in salary and a $1.53 million cash bonus.

“Management’s equity compensation is directly aligned with our shareholders’ interests,” Geoff Curtis, a spokesman for the Lake Forest, Illinois-based company, said in an e-mail. The awards that aren’t tied to performance will bring Walbert’s stake in Horizon to 2.6 percent from 0.8 percent, in line with the median held by CEOs in its compensation peer group, he said. Horizon’s board doesn’t intend to grant executives additional equity awards in the next three years, according to the filing.

Stock Swoon

After more than quadrupling in the 12 months through July 2015, Horizon’s share price has fallen by more than half to $16.22 at 11:55 a.m. in New York. Bloomberg Intelligence’s Global Specialty Pharma Valuation Peer Group has slumped 40 percent since July. In February, Horizon said it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York requesting documents about its patient assistance programs and marketing practices.

Horizon, which has its tax base in Ireland, said in a filing it could “incur significant costs in connection with the investigation, regardless of the outcome.”

Pharmaceutical supply chains and relationships between drugmakers and pharmacies have come under scrutiny from benefit managers. Express Scripts Holding Co., the largest U.S. manager of prescription drug benefits, removed mail-order pharmacy Linden Care LLC from its network in November after finding that 40 percent of its claims that year were for Horizon drugs. Horizon has said that the pharmacies that distribute its drugs are all independent.

Captive Pharmacies

Express Scripts has said it will continue to take action against pharmacies that derive the bulk of their business from one single drugmaker -- so-called captive pharmacies. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. was questioned in October over its close ties to Philidor RX Services LLC, a mail-order pharmacy. The company has since ended its relationship with Philidor.

Large pay packages aren’t unusual at smaller biotechnology and health-care companies, where executives often derive the vast majority of their compensation from stock options and shares tied to share price growth. Juno Therapeutics Inc.’s CEO Hans Bishop and Aries Belldegrun at Kite Pharma Inc. were among the highest-paid U.S. executives in 2014 due to stock price increases that multiplied the value of their pay packages, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index.

Horizon Executive Vice President George Hampton received a $25.2 million pay package for 2015, including $19.2 million in restricted shares and stock options valued at $5.31 million when granted.

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