Amgen is in major belt-tightening mode. Still it held its annual shareholder shindig at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, CA.
The 400-500 investors who showed up were treated to valet parking, soft drinks, and a nice spread of cheeses, vegetable crudite, fruit and sweets. (My producer saw one woman stuffing her purse on her way out with bottled drinks.)
Some might say free food and drink is the least the biotech company can offer after the kind of year its investors have endured.
Amgen Chairman and CEO Kevin Sharer started off his 20-minute speech by saying, "2007 was awful. All of us shareholders suffered and I deeply, deeply regret that."
In response to one angry shareholder who later approached the microphone to complain about the stock price and the CEO's "excessive pay", Sharer offered this: "My net worth is overwhelmingly in Amgen shares. My shares went down and I felt real economic pain, too."
According to the company's proxy statement, his total compensation fell $4 million last year to $20 million. Sharer explained the number can be misleading, though, because it's not all cash and some of it is not in the here and now.
He also defended his nearly quarter-million dollars worth of personal use of the company's aircraft last year saying it's all Board-approved and it's for his "safety and security."
Speaking of protection, there were at least four marked sheriff's vehicles around the hotel yesterday along with a small army of corporate and hotel security. Animal rights protesters were outside the property.
After the meeting I interviewed two of the shareholders who spoke up at the meeting (We couldn't bring a camera inside, only a pen and paper.) Check out the video clip. The gentleman is Ted Goldberg. The woman did not want to give her name.