Forget the proxy fight. Elan decided to bypass the wrangle and simply appoint two dissidents to its board voluntarily. Jack Schuler, a former president of Abbott Laboratories who's also been a fierce critic of the Irish company's management, will stand for election under the company banner next month. On Schuler's recommendation, Elan also nominated ex-Eli Lilly CEO Vaughn Bryson for a seat.
Schuler and other shareholders have been quite vocal in their criticism of Elan and its top execs. The critics have picked on everything from the execs' frequent use of company planes to what they see as wronghanded marketing of Elan's primary drug, Tysabri. One key criticism: Elan management doesn't have enough commercial-pharma experience to maximize drug sales and profits.
So it's no accident that the two new board nominees are Big Pharma alums. In announcing the nominations, Elan Chairman Kyran McLaughlin said the men would "greatly strengthen the commercial pharmaceutical experience on the Elan Board."
Is CEO Kelly Martin worried? After all, Schuler has publicly called for Martin's head on a platter; he'd like the CEO replaced by a new leader who has pharma marketing experience. If so, Martin isn't saying. In a public appearance Wednesday, he did say that Elan is in the final phases reviewing its "strategic options," including a possible sale or partnership. That strategic review, incidentally, has also drawn Schuler's fire. So we'll see whether those options go anywhere--and whether Martin goes, too.