Carl Icahn slams Illumina CEO pay raise

Carl Icahn speaking at the Delivering Alpha conference in New York on September 13, 2016

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Carl Icahn exploded Illumina for nearly doubling her CEO’s salary last year despite the biotech company’s market value plummeting after a controversial deal closed.

“I would find this comical if it weren’t so reprehensible that ILMN’s share price dropped 63% because CEO Francis de Souza made such an absurd and dubious purchase,” Icahn said in a statement to CNBC. .

“And what’s really funny is the idea that it’s hard to find good leaders in this area,” the activist investor added. “I think it will be difficult to find someone who can lose $50 billion in shareholder value in a matter of months, but still make 87% more, for a total of $26.8 million in 2022.”

Illumina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSouza took over as CEO in 2016 after nearly three years as president of a DNA sequencing company. He received nearly $26.8 million in total wages last year, nearly double the $14.3 million he received in 2021, according to the agency. prior power of attorney Illumina filed on Thursday.

Part of de Souza’s pay raise is a special $12.5 million stock options grant, which Illumina called “a significant incentive to retain in a highly competitive talent landscape.”

DeSuza’s pay raise follows a difficult 18 months for the San Diego-based Illumina. The company’s market value dropped to about $35 billion from about $75 billion in August 2021 when it closed a deal to acquire cancer test developer Grail.

Rafael Enrique | Light rocket | Getty Images

The $7.1 billion Grail deal is the focus of a dispute between Icahn and Illumina, who have been trading blows for nearly a month now.

Aikan, who owns a 1.4% stake in Illumina, is running for a seat on the company’s board of directors. He is also trying to push Illumina to roll back the acquisition of Grail, which he called “disastrous” and “the new low in corporate governance.”

He has repeatedly criticized Illumina’s board of directors and management team, saying earlier this week that the company should bring back former CEO Jay Flatley to “put things right.”

Illumina on Thursday called on shareholders to reject Icahn’s three nominations to its board of directors and continued to defend its management’s decision to acquire Grail.

The company also stated that Icahn could have said more favorable things about his current CEO before starting the proxy battle.

Icahn told Illumina last month that he intends to put forward nominations to the board of directors, despite the fact that he believes that de Souza “has done a good job running the company,” Illumina said.

The activist investor also said he was “supportive” of de Souza’s actions as CEO during another meeting earlier this month, but noted that he would not repeat those comments publicly, Illumina reported.

Part of Icahn’s resistance to the acquisition of Grail stems from Illumina’s decision to close the deal without antitrust approval. Tcompany won due to objections from the US Federal Trade Commission to the deal in September, but is still fighting for approval from European regulators.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, last year blocked Illumina acquired Grail out of concern that it would stifle innovation and hurt consumer choice. The commission also released details of a planned order that would force Illumina to cancel the deal.

Illumina said earlier this month that Grail has “tremendous long-term value creation potential.”

Grail claims to offer the only commercially available early screening test which can detect more than 50 types of cancer with a single blood draw. The test generated $55 million in revenue in 2022, with up to $110 million expected this year, according to Illumina.

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