Pharma giant Pfizer on Monday announced that Ian Read, CEO for 8 years, is stepping down in favor of Pfizer’s current COO Albert Bourla, a Greek veteran in the company for 25 years.
Ian Read, born in 1953, is an anomalous CEO starting from his background: the head of one of the most important corporations in the world doesn’t come from a Ivy League business school, but he’s a chemical engineer (Imperial College) and has a secondary school diploma in accountancy. He started his career in Pfizer in 1978, as an auditor in Latin America. His key task as he was appointed was completing the integration of Wyeth, acquired in January 2009 for $68bn, which resulted in a massive staff cut and considerable reorganization. Since then, Ian Read has never stopped pursuing new, important takeovers that, however, have never been performed–such as the takeover attempt to Allergan ($160bn offered) and to AstraZeneca ($118bn). Truth to be told, Pfizer has achieved to perform relevant, minor acquisitions–indeed, it is among the pharma groups that have invested the most in M&A over the last few years. Ian Read has always paid very much attention to his group’s share trend. Indeed, the first important decision he took in 2010, soon after his appointment, was to cut R&D spending by closing down Sandwich (UK) research center–a decision that soon caused Pfizer’s shares to soar. The group’s capitalization has tripled since he was appointed in 2010 and it is now $261bn, still with growth potential, according to many analysts–Pfizer’s P/E is as low as 12, far below the average P/E in its sector. Experts add that Read is leaving a group with one of the richest and most promising pipelines in its business: at least 15 investigational therapies have potential to become blockbusters, with revenues exceeding one billion dollars per year.