Cephalon ($CEPH) Chairman and CEO Frank Baldino, Jr. (photo) died last night, leaving the company without a permanent chief. It was recently announced that Baldino, 57, who had been on medical leave since August, would be on leave "indefinitely." COO Kevin Buchi has been running the company in his absence. Calling Baldino a "pioneer" in the industry, the company said in a statement, "[H]e was an inspirational leader who will be sorely missed."
Baldino founded Cephalon 20 years ago and took the company from start-up to publicly traded drugmaker with eight products in the U.S. and more than $2 billion in revenues. It is best known for its sleep-disorder remedies Provigil and Nuvigil, but it also makes therapies for cancer and other central nervous system disorders. Provigil has won fame not only as a blockbuster seller, but as an off-label performance booster used by some students--and even research scientists--to sharpen their thinking.
To counter the loss of Provigil sales when it faces generic competition, the company recently bought a stake in Mesoblast, an Australian company working on stem-cell therapies in a record-setting deal that could be worth more than $2 billion. Buchi wrapped up that deal, and he's set to join Mesoblast's board of directors.
So will Buchi end up in the CEO seat? The company's spokesman tells Reuters that it's not going to make any succession announcements "in the near future," out of respect for Baldino's leadership. Absent that leadership, it is unknown whether Cephalon will continue its upward path.