LONDON - Britain's bluechip firms last year slashed chief executive pay as the pandemic struck but the head of Covid vaccine maker AstraZeneca still pocketed a chart-topping £15.45 million, a survey showed Thursday.
With many businesses plunging into sharp losses as the world suffered lockdowns, CEOs of London's biggest listed companies saw median annual pay drop 17 percent, the High Pay Centre think tank said.
However AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot managed to earn the equivalent of $21.25 million or 50 percent more than his nearest challenger -- Brian Cassin, the CEO at credit-rating group Experian.
The High Pay Center campaigns for a narrowing of the huge gap between CEO and ordinary workers' wages in Britain.
"Very high CEO pay reflects a wider gap between rich and poor in the UK than in most other European countries," said High Pay Center Director Luke Hildyard.
"The inequalities exposed by the pandemic and the volume of public money used to protect large businesses could strengthen the argument for measures to contain top pay and re-balance extreme income differences."
The survey showed that median CEO pay was 86 times median earnings for a full-time worker in the UK.
The High Pay Center said average CEO pay at nine blue-chip companies that claimed support through the government's furlough jobs support scheme was £2.39 million.
The UK government has spent billions of pounds paying the bulk of wages for private-sector staff during the pandemic in a scheme due to end next month.
The highest-paid female CEO last year was meanwhile Emma Walmsley, who earned £7.0 million as boss of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
Only six out of 100 companies on the blue-chip index have a female CEO.
Median chief executive pay last year was £2.69 million among the 100 companies surveyed.