Teva denies CEO weighing an exit over board's meddling

Teva Pharmaceutical CEO Jeremy Levin

Clearly Israel is full of chatter about Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its latest round of cost-cutting plans. The rumor mill doesn't have to dig much for drama, what with workers striking, unions calling for executive pay cuts, and a former chairman calling for ditto. Not to mention high-level meetings among labor leaders, government officials and Teva's ($TEVA) current executive team.

The latest, according to an Israeli television report: CEO Jeremy Levin is considering making an exit. It's not the first such suggestion; during the company's second-quarter earnings call, Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin wondered aloud about the board's support--or lack thereof--for Levin.

Apparently, Rubin anticipated some behind-the-scenes conflict, if Channel 2's report is any indication. According to the Israeli television news, the company's board of directors is far from united behind Levin's job-cutting drive, and management wrote the board to complain. "[T]he lack of unity among the board of directors and CEO hurts our ability to make the necessary changes," the letter stated, Channel 2 news reported (as quoted by Reuters).

What's more, the board has been meddling in Teva's daily affairs, the letter said, and that's hindering the company's efforts at a turnaround. The letter asked the board to back off, essentially--"reconsider its intervention in the daily course of business" was the actual phrase, as quoted by Reuters

So, in the midst of the conflict, Levin's staff is telling Channel 2 that, a. Chairman Philip Frost is trying to push Levin out, and b. Levin is considering resigning if the conflict with the board continues.

The company, however, says this is all baseless gossip. "All decisions made by the company's management, led by its CEO, have been made with consultation and agreement of the board," the company told the news service.

In the recent past, Frost has defended Levin against restive shareholders and critical analysts. Frost told Bloomberg that he was not only verbally supporting the company's management, but putting his money where his mouth is by buying shares. Is he still doing so? At this point, we don't know. But with the Israeli media all over Teva's current activities, we're sure to hear more soon.

- see the Reuters news

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