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The 10 Greediest People of 2008

For obvious reasons, we probably couldn't have picked a better year than 2008 to "honor" our most avaricious.

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Soon-Shiong came into 2008 as the chief executive of APP Pharmaceuticals. He stepped down as CEO in the spring, but the former surgeon still held 83 percent of the company's shares. In July, he agreed to sell APP to a German firm. The sale finalized two months later for an initial $3.7 billion cash payment.  

What made APP so attractive? The company is minting money. In 2007, notes the Los Angeles Business Journal, APP scored $253 million in adjusted earnings on just $647 million of sales. The firm started this year off on an equally profitable tear when a contamination scare in China left APP the only U.S. source of a widely used blood-thinner. That drug quickly doubled in price.

8: Richard Baker

This hasn't been a great year for the hedge fund industry. The funds -- largely unregulated investment vehicles open only to deep-pocket investors -- are suffering their worst year ever, down 19 percent through November. But the industry has certainly been sweet this year to at least one lucky fellow, former Congressman Richard Baker from Louisiana.

Back in February, Baker gave up his House seat -- and his $169,300 House salary -- to become the president and CEO of the Managed Funds Association, the hedge fund industry's trade association.

What led the 60-year-old Baker, a lawmaker since the age of 23, to give up his life of public service?  Maybe the private gain. As the hedge fund trade group chief, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported earlier this year, Baker would be taking home a $1 million annual salary and benefits package.

What made Baker so attractive to America's hedge fund billionaires? As the chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, the Center for Responsible Politics notes, Baker had been overseeing the very industry he would, as the hedge fund top gun, be representing.

7: James Mulva

Back last spring, with motorists turning purple with rage every time they pulled in for a fill-up, one Big Oil CEO tried to assure Americans he shared their pain. Declared ConocoPhillips chief exec Mulva: "High oil prices have not been our friend" -- because, as he explained later to reporters, higher per-barrel prices for crude have resource-rich countries demanding more control over their own oil.

On the other hand, the run-up in crude oil prices over recent years hasn't exactly left Big Oil broken-hearted. The industry's profits, the Consumer Federation of America noted this fall, have soared over 600 percent since 2002.

Few have enjoyed more rewards for that success than the 62-year-old Mulva. He reaped a $50.5 million personal payoff in 2007, according to federal Securities and Exchange Commission figures. He'll be collecting, when he retires, at least a $2.6 million annual pension.

6: Ralph Roberts

On January 1, 2008, the Comcast cable TV empire put into effect the ultimate in executive incentive pay plans: a new deal that guaranteed the company's founder and executive committee chair, Ralph Roberts, $1.85 million in basic annual salary for five years after he dies, with the after-death payout going to whoever Roberts names as his beneficiary.

In 2007, Roberts, now 88, actually pocketed $24.7 million in total compensation. His son, current Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, collected $20.8 million.

Some shareholders, in early 2008, took a bit of umbrage to all this largesse. Some even began demanding Brian's resignation. In February, under fire, the Roberts clan backed down. They agreed to ax Ralph's death benefit and drop his annual salary to $1 a year. But Comcast will continue to pay Ralph's various benefits, including his life insurance. In 2006, the premiums ran $10.5 million.

 
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