U.S. Markets close in 3 hrs 41 mins

Novartis chairman drops $78 million parachute deal

GENEVA (AP) -- The outgoing chairman of Swiss drug maker Novartis AG has agreed to cancel a much-criticized deal under which he stood to earn up to 72 million francs ($78 million) for not advising competitors over the coming years.

Daniel Vasella, the company's long-time chairman and former chief executive, is to step down at its annual general meeting on Feb. 22.

News of the "non-compete deal," under which Vasella would have earned up to 12 million francs a year for six years, emerged last week and met with widespread criticism in Switzerland.

The company says the chairman had agreed to donate the money to "philanthropic activities" but Vasella said Tuesday he "understood that many people in Switzerland find the amount of the compensation linked to the non-compete agreement unreasonably high."