Help Wanted: CEO and president for a biotech company facing safety issues with a key drug. Skills required: All the usual ones, plus the ability to face occasional battles with activist investor Carl Icahn. Apply to Biogen Idec now.
Yes, Biogen's CEO and President James Mullen (photo) is stepping down. He'll retire from those jobs as of June 8, and he'll also sign out as a director at the end of his current term after the 2010 annual meeting, also expected to be in June. The company has launched a search for his replacement. But who's up for taking on the company's challenges as its next CEO?
Actually, there are plenty of other questions. Will Icahn have any say in the matter? After all, he won two board seats in a hard-fought proxy battle last year. Will Biogen go back on the sale block? Icahn bullied the company into trying to sell itself before last year's proxy battle, then accused management of deliberately scuttling any possible deal.
And then there's the reason for Mullen's departure. Did the board pressure him to leave? The company says no. Did the recent back-and-forth with Icahn prompt the retirement? The company says no again. And at least one analyst believes; Cowen & Co's Eric Schmidt says the ongoing Icahn fight might have swayed Mullen a bit, but likely wasn't the key reason. "My guess is that Jim just decided it was time to move on,'' Schmidt tells the Boston Globe. "He's done it for 20 years, has plenty of money, has interests outside Biogen, and just decided to call it quits.''