New AZ chief sends top execs packing in management shuffle

CEO Pascal Soriot

Since Pascal Soriot took the CEO chair at AstraZeneca ($AZN), pharma-watchers have been speculating about what he'll do to turn around the troubled company. But there were few clues. Yes, Soriot stopped the stock buybacks immediately upon his arrival, fueling talk that he was conserving cash for dealmaking. He made some comments along the way that people parsed for hints.

Paul Hudson, Executive VP, North America

But now, he's made a move. A big move. He swept aside two of AstraZeneca's top executives--R&D president Martin Mackay and commercial EVP Tony Zook--and revamped the structure of top management. Now, commercial activities will be split three ways, along geographic lines. Paul Hudson will take the reins in North America, with Ruud Dobber in charge in Europe and Mark Mallon internationally. All will be executive vice presidents.

R&D will also be divvied up among three top managers, but along functional lines--with one chief for early small-molecule R&D (Mene Pngalos), another for early biologics R&D (MedImmune Chief Bahija Jallal), and a third for late-stage development (Briggs Morrison).

Notably, Soriot filled all these new roles with AstraZeneca insiders, rather than muster up his own team from outside.

Soriot also created a new position--global portolio and product strategy--to connect sales and R&D. That job hasn't been

Ruud Dobber, Executive VP, Europe Mark Mallon, Executive VP, International

filled yet. But it's likely to be a key position, with today's growing reimbursement worries and shorter launch windows. Getting the commercial side involved earlier in the development process is one of pharma's new goals.

In the meantime, the commercial team will have its own challenges. The expanded partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) on diabetes drugs will be a focus, with Forxiga now launched in Europe and the two companies flogging Bydureon in North America. With AstraZeneca's goals for emerging markets growth mean Mallon will be busy forging ahead internationally. Pricing pressure in Europe, Crestor competition in the U.S. ... the list goes on.

But we won't know the real skinny on the executive team's 2013 goals till Soriot outlines his new strategy, expected later this month. Till then, the speculation goes on.

- read the AZ release