While others rake in millions from vax surge, BioNTech CEO sits on stocks

April 20, 2021

A swath of executives and scientists behind many of the COVID-19 vaccines have sold millions in stocks while the value of shares have skyrocketed during the pandemic. But there has been one glaring exception to this trend: Ugur Sahin, the CEO of BioNTech.

According to Forbes, the decision to delay cashing in from the pandemic reflects Sahin’s low-key approach to his wealth. Despite being a billionaire, Sahin reportedly lives in a modest apartment in Germany and often rides his bike to work. A scientist with a background as an oncology professor, Sahin reportedly learned about the business side of biopharma from online videos and a “Business Plans for Dummies” book.

But Sahin quickly identified the Sars-CoV-2 virus as a game-changing pandemic and redirected BioNTech towards developing an mRNA vaccine early in the virus’ spread. After partnering with Pfizer, the pair’s candidate became the first approved in the U.S.

According to Forbes, BioNTech’s stock has shot up by 900 percent since the company’s IPO in 2019, and the company’s value has increased from $3.4 billion to now $37 billion. Sahin controls 17 percent of the company’s shares, and his stake is currently estimated at $6.1 billion.

Pfizer’s CEO, Anthony Bourla, sold about 60 percent of his shares in the company for about $5.6 million. Several executives at Moderna have also sold off shares since their value has climbed, and the company has said that the sell-offs were pre-planned. 

As Forbes points out, hanging onto to the shares has made Sahin richer — on paper, at least — because the value of BioNTech stock is continuing to ascend.