L.A. billionaire Soon-Shiong gets $148-million payday even as his firm's stock tanks

Even though its shares have tanked, the Southern California biotech firm NantKwest Inc. gave its top executive, Patrick Soon-Shiong, a pay package last year worth almost $148 million, according to a stock filing Wednesday.

Soon-Shiong sold shares in NantKwest, a San Diego cancer research firm, to the public in July. Its stock was priced initially at $25 a share, and surged over the next couple of days. But the shares have sunk since then and are now down 65% since the IPO, closing Wednesday at $8.73.

The company is now defending itself against a class-action lawsuit brought by shareholders who say they were misled when executives said in March they would have to restate the company's financial statements for the second and third quarters.

Those accounting errors related, in part, to Soon-Shiong's compensation package, the company said then.

According to Wednesday's filing, Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles billionaire who serves as the company's chairman, received stock worth $15 million, as well as stock-option awards that the company valued at $132.2 million.

He also received $1 in salary for 2015 and a $386,301 bonus.

The package would make him one of the highest paid CEOs last year.

Soon-Shiong and his investment firm own 57% of NantKwest's shares, according to the company's filing.

Barry Simon, NantKwest's president and chief operating officer, received a salary and stock package valued at more than $21 million, according to the filing.

Jen Hodson, a spokeswoman for the company, said Soon-Shiong was traveling out of the country for business and could not be reached for comment.

Soon-Shiong, 63, became a billionaire oncologist after selling two other drug companies: APP Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2008 and Abraxis BioScience Inc. in 2010.

NantKwest is focusing on developing cancer therapies that use the human immune system to fight the disease. The firm has operations in Culver City.

melody.petersen@latimes.com

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A version of this article appeared in print on April 28, 2016, in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "CEO gets $148 million - NantKwest's Patrick Soon-Shiong received the pay despite firm's sinking stock price." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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