|Allergan CEO Brent Saunders|
Pfizer ($PFE) and Allergan ($AGN) are currently in "friendly" merger talks. And if they do tie the knot, it's looking like Allergan CEO Brent Saunders will take the helm.
The pair is moving toward a plan to put Saunders in the top spot, sources tell Bloomberg. And if Pfizer does later split into two companies--as industry watchers suspect--Saunders would helm the faster-growing innovative business, with the other comprising older therapies with little or no remaining patent protection.
A CEO appointment for Saunders wouldn't exactly come as a surprise. He's climbed the leadership ladder quickly since his first skipper stint in 2010 with Bausch + Lomb. After selling that company to Valeant ($VRX), he wound up at the reins of Forest Labs--a drugmaker he also sold, this time to Actavis, which took on the name Allergan after closing a $66 billion deal early this year.
It also wouldn't be the first time a more established exec stepped aside to make way for the up-and-comer. At Actavis, then-CEO Paul Bisaro vacated the slot when Saunders came on board, slipping instead into the chairman's role in an arrangement he recently told Bloomberg "has worked very well for us."
"Our working relationship is very collaborative and constructive," Bisaro told the news service, noting that "it has been a bit unique to have an executive chairman and CEO working this closely together."
This time, it would be Pfizer's Ian Read--who took up the CEO post in early 2011--moving over. Since 62-year-old Read was named to the top job at the New York drug giant in December 2010, the company's stock has doubled from $16.72 to more than $33, Bloomberg points out.
But does Saunders want the gig--or rather, should he? That's the question Bernstein's analysts asked in a recent note to investors. If Pfizer and Allergan join up, Saunders will make a pretty penny on the deal--about $100 million-plus, they figure. And at that point, "would he even want to run a big, messy global drug company, with all the headaches it entails? Or, would he rather move onto something leaner and meaner?" they wrote.
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