$148 million payday for CEO you've never heard of

Meet the billionaire behind Cancer Moonshot 2020
Meet the billionaire behind Cancer Moonshot 2020

A little-known cancer-fighting biotech firm with little revenue and no approved drugs has lavished a $148 million pay package on its billionaire CEO.

NantKwest (NK), which last year became the most valuable biotech IPO ever, is rewarding CEO and majority shareholder Patrick Soon-Shiong with $132.2 million in stock options and $15 million in stock awards for 2015.

The mega payday, announced in a filing on Wednesday, is believed to be the biggest reported compensation package of last year, exceeding the $100 million given to Google (GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai.

In a statement to CNNMoney, NanKwest noted that Soon-Shiong earned $1 in base salary and the stock awards were mostly tied to "strategic milestones."

Soon-Shiong is also part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and is reported to be a brilliant surgeon who Forbes says is worth $12.1 billion. He amassed that fortune by founding a pair of drug companies that were later sold.

Soon-Shiong, who was born in South Africa and came to the U.S. over 30 years ago, owned 58.1% of NantKwest's stock as of the end of 2015.

The $148 million pay package is sure to raise eyebrows though. NantKwest went public in July 2015, just months before the universe of biotech stocks crashed amid a focus on overpriced drugs. The company's $2.6 billion valuation at the time of the IPO was the largest ever for a biotech firm, according to Renaissance Capital.

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NantKwest is attempting to harness natural killer cells to treat cancer and other infectious diseases. However, the company still does not have any approved drugs and generated just $14 million in sales in the final three months of 2015.

Its stock price peaked at $38.48 on the day of the IPO but it's since crashed to just $9 apiece today. NantKwest has a market valuation of just $733 million -- not a whole lot bigger than Soon-Shiong's compensation package.

"NantKwest went public at the worst time, at the top of valuations for biotechs," said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, which manages IPO-focused ETFs.

Smith noted: "This guy's got a hot hand."

Before NantKwest went public, the company gave Soon-Shiong a warrant to purchase nearly 18 million shares at an exercise price of $2. Most of those shares vest once certain performance conditions are met and the rest over the course of several years.

NantKwest did not respond to a CNNMoney question about the pay package.

Soon-Shiong is hardly the only CEO to get a big payday following a successful IPO. GoPro (GPRO) founder and CEO Nick Woodman landed a pay package that was valued at $285 million at the end of 2014.

As members of the Buffett-Gates Giving Pledge, Soon-Shiong and his wife Michele Chan have promised to give away at least half of their wealth.

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