* Swiss to vote on limits to executive pay on March 3
* Vasella to step down as Novartis chairman on Feb 22
ZURICH Feb 15 Novartis Chairman
Daniel Vasella said he will receive up to 72 million Swiss
francs ($77.94 million) over the next six years after leaving
the company this month, news that might play into the hands of
supporters of a referendum to limit "fat cat" pay.
Vasella told Swiss TV SRF on Friday he will be entitled to
annual payments of 12 million francs if he respects the clauses
of his contract banning him from working for a competitor.
"So that would add up to 72 million francs within six
years," he told TV news magazine "Tagesschau," adding he and his
family had decided to donate the money net of taxes.
The news comes two weeks ahead of a referendum on March 3 in
which Swiss voters will decide whether they want to give
shareholders in Swiss companies a veto over executive pay deals.
Politicians questioned by Swiss TV said they were shocked
about the high amount Vasella would receive after leaving the
Basel-based pharma company, with minister Simonetta Sommaruga
saying she was "speechless."
Polls show 65 percent would approve the initiative - the
brainchild of businessman Thomas Minder - who has tapped public
ire over lavish bonuses blamed for fuelling a high-risk culture
that nearly felled Swiss bank UBS.
Novartis said last month Vasella would not stand for
re-election to the board of directors at the annual general
meeting on Feb. 22.
With a salary of 15.7 million Swiss francs in 2011, Novartis
CEO Joe Jimenez was the second-best paid manager in Europe,
after Volkswagen's Martin Winterkorn, who earned
17.5 million euros ($23.29 million).
($1=0.9238 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum)