When Jeff Kindler took over as CEO of Pfizer (PFE) in 2006, he had two major strategic goals to meet: Find a replacement for Lipitor, the cholesterol blockbuster that loses its patent protection in 2011; and get the stock to go back up after a 50 percent decline under the previous chief, Hank McKinnell.
Kindler resigned suddenly last night with both of those goals unfulfilled. He hands over the reins to Ian Read, Pfizer's current global president. Kindler's stated reason is:
... the combination of meeting the requirements of our many stakeholders around the world and the 24/7 nature of my responsibilities, has made this period extremely demanding on me personally. ... I am excited at the opportunity to recharge my batteries, spend some rare time with my family, and prepare for the next challenge in my career.Some aren't buying that:
"The departure is sudden but I doubt there was one event per se that caused Kindler's" retirement, said Tim Anderson, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in San Francisco, in an e-mail. It is "highly likely he was pushed."Pfizer today looks a lot like Pfizer when McKinnell was forced out by shareholders who were angry at the value he had destroyed: PFE fell by one third to $16.72 during Kindler's tenure. But there has not been the drumbeat of demands that presaged McKinnell's departure.
Kindler's plea for for a bit of peace and quiet fits in terms of his previous career path. When he was general counsel at Pfizer and before that at McDonald's (MCD), he enjoyed wealth and power but stayed out of the spotlight. As CEO of Pfizer, he's been the subject of constant, never-ending media speculation. It probably wasn't fun. He may not have been prepared for the relentlessness of it.
Like McKinnell, Kindler's major achievement came in the M&A market (Wyeth) rather than in new drug discovery. The addition of Wyeth certainly leaves Pfizer in a less-worse situation than it was without the company, but it has not turned out to be the tranformative move Kindler hoped it would be. Read (right) must now achieve what both Kindler and McKinnell failed to.
So what did Kindler achieve during the last four-and-a-bit years? He could be remembered for his role in three pieces of political theater:
- Healthcare reform: As CEO of the largest pharmaceutical company in the PhRMA lobby group, Kindler was rewarded specifically for sewing together a coalition of lobbyists that worked to get President Obama's health plan through Congress.
- The U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London, which granted governments the right to seize private property in the "public interest." The case was triggered because Pfizer wanted to redevelop a down-at-heel stretch of New London, Conn., for a new R&D site. Pfizer abandoned the plan after winning the ruling
-- and after the residents in the neighborhood lost their homes.
- The $2.3 billion settlement with the Department of Justice for marketing the painkiller Bextra for unapproved, off-label uses. It was the biggest off-label settlement with prosecutors in drug history.
- Total compensation in 2009: $15 million
- Stock units not yet vested: 2,765,701 (at $16/share that would be worth more than $44 million)
- Pension benefits:$3,496,004
- Deferred compensation: $4,429,920
- Severance and other: $4,059,472
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