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Pfizer and the Big Helicopter Ride

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 12:09 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical
Tags: Pfizer, Chantix, Drug Companies, Lipitor, Corporate Compensation

Pfizer compensation exec. with helicopter rides as others face job loss.



IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ purple money pill/ author: mypixart


The internet is the worst enemy of those who would like to keep company secrets, secret. 

The latest secret outed for the world wide web to see comes from Cafepharma where Pfizer is the topic of the day - specifically the helicopter rides that a Pfizer executive is allegedly taking to her job in Manhattan from her home in Maryland.

The $300,000 helicopter ride, to corporate headquarters on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan, has many employees angry especially since it comes at a time when cutbacks at Pfizer are costing thousands their jobs.

A Cafe respondent only known as Anonymous writes to CafePharma, “ I guess the Lincoln Continental car service is not up to their standards. In today’s high tech society, I truly cannot comprehend what is so important that they must fly in to get to the office. Oh yes, they must see the ever so important new weekly NRx on their office computer when seeing it on their blackberry is so beneath them. I guess they are just so important to see who they will target for layoff this day. 

"The problem with many corporate boards is that board members are making tons of money being on the board and would NEVER vote against the people that put them on the board.

"The other problem is that our ELT is always comparing their standard of living and travel to other fortune 100 companies, thus just through keeping up with the “joneses” all the CEOs will always receive higher pay and higher perks.”   

Journalist Ed Silverman, who covered this story on his Web site Pharmalot, tells IB News that many pharmaceutical companies are hurting and Pfizer is no exception.

“Every big pharmaceutical company, they’re all having that kind of problem with patent protections that have been expiring on the big sellers, often in the same time frame,” he says.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest research pharmaceutical company, is the maker of drugs such as Viagra, Lipitor, Celebrex, Benadryl, Aricept, Zithromax, Zoloft, among many other drugs.

However, in April, the New York Times reported the Pfizer had a worse-than-expected drop in quarterly earnings due to lower sales of Lipitor, whose shares dipped more than three percent when competitor, Zocor (Merck), lost its patent and cheaper generics entered the market.  

Pfizer says it still expects earnings this year to grow as much as 11 percent, partially from a cost-cutting program that eliminated 25,000 jobs or 23 percent of the workforce over the last four years.  

The Pfizer executive, who prefers commuting to work in the air, is reportedly Mary McLeod, profiled on Pharmalot, a senior vice president of human resources who takes the weekly rides from her home in Maryland.

Silverman reports that Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler believed that the perks incurred by several executives were justified. Among the many Pfizer employees who read Silverman’s Pharmalot, "a lot were angry that at one point that the company paid for this. Even considering paying for this seems to rile some folks,” he says.

Silverman says, “There’s anger in the rank and file over the situation they find themselves in. CEOs generally are lightning rods, not pharma in particular.”

Gulfstream G500 corporate jet the type used by Ford Motor Company.

IMAGE SOURCE:  Gulfstream G5/ Nasa


He’s right.

At the Ford Motor Company, employees facing job cuts were up in arms in 2006, when new CEO Alan Mulally, recruited from Boeing, was given $28 million for four months on the job at the same time the struggling Ford Motor company posting a record $12.7 billion net loss.

Crain’s Detroit reported last month that Mulally also received board permission to use the company aircraft totaling $752,203 for 2007. 

Mulally, who had reportedly planned to move his family to Detroit, instead kept them in the Seattle area, flying back and forth in one of the company’s Gulfstream G500 aircraft.    

The cost to fly a Gulfstream G500 at $6,000 an hour (conservatively) can run at least $27,000 each way.  Filings by Ford disclosed that Mulally can request his wife, children, and guests use the Ford corporate jets at company expense to come visit him in Detroit, even without him on the flight, which could result in two round-trip flights. 

By August 1, the Detroit Free Press reports that 15% of the Ford workforce will be gone. The white-collar workforce has been trimmed this time as have benefits, including tuition and scholarship programs. 

Automakers began cutting medical benefits in 2006, with workers voluntarily giving up health benefits as a concession to keeping their jobs. Many spouses began to have elective surgery in advance of the move to remove them from coverage.

At Pfizer, they’ve had a change of heart.

Since this expense could not be justified as a normal business activity, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler reportedly asked several executives to pay their own helicopters bills.

Mary McLeod got a bill to reimburse the company about $300,000 for her cushy commutes.

For its part, a Pfizer spokesman sent to Pharmalot a statement, “Across Pfizer, every expense is being reviewed. From the manufacturing floor to the executive suite, we are committed to leveraging every dollar.”

Silverman hears from Pfizer employees and says the company’s move, “reflects a policy issue, a discussion inside the company about how this will be treated but also as to whether we should be doing this now?”

One respondent to Pharmalot says, “It’s this kind of nonsense that has me liquidating my PFE stock. Dumped another 20,000 shares this morning. I pity the poor sucker (s) that bought those shares….Management is lost without a clue.” #


Anonymous User
Posted by Laid off HR Employee
Thursday, July 24, 2008 10:34 AM EST

Check the year end compensation share/bonus awards and see if the Head of HR receives an award close to the reimbursement for the helicopter rides. Coincidence?? I think not.

Posted by Tom Young
Friday, July 25, 2008 8:48 AM EST

FlightAware.com provides a free tracking service of all registered aircraft in the United States. If you have the tail number ("N" number) of a particular aircraft, you can ask Flight Aware to notify you every time that aircraft files a flight plan.

Pfizer has a subsidiary called Charlie Papa Operations, LLC which owns several of its corporate aircraft. If you search the FAA database for Charlie Papa, LLC you can find all of the tail numbers associated with Pfizer aircraft.

Over at freerepublic.com a poster has discovered that Pfizer has requested that FlightAware block tracking of its aircraft. Wonder why?


Anonymous User
Posted by MoneyWatcher
Friday, July 25, 2008 11:08 AM EST

Could it be because the Pfizer upper brass likes to use the corporate jet to fly to sporting events, Florida and perhaps exotic islands?

I understand that Pfizer allows it's upper managment to have FREE PERSONAL use of the corporate planes up to 20 hours per year. That's absurd!
It would be more cost effective to offer them 20 hours on a commercial aircraft.

It's interesting to watch Pfizer. I use to be affiliated with them and could not believe the waste that went on at that company.

Pfizer seems to think that this "helicopter story" will go away.

Does anyone have any more information? The Pfizer I left would have Pfired a lower ranked manager over something like this. The heck with paying for it out of your own pocket....it does not look good for the company! Period. Especially someone who is in the role of laying off people.

Comments for this article are closed.

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