Ex-Teva chief Jeremy Levin to MBA grads: Anyone have a job for me?

What do you do when you're a stranger in a new land, and suddenly out of work? If you're Jeremy Levin, you speak at Tel Aviv University's MBA commencement ceremony--and remind the audience that you're open to job offers.

Jeremy Levin

It's proof that job-hunting means networking, and networking is a full-time job. "Teva has wonderful and dedicated people who are led by a strong management, some of whom are here now," Levin said at the ceremony (as quoted by Globes). "As for myself, I immigrated and I'm now unemployed, so if you have some interesting offers... "

The former Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) CEO stepped aside amid a brouhaha over the company's plans to cut more costs and lay off more workers, including hundreds in Israel. The power struggle was closely covered in Israeli media because Teva is one of the country's leading employers and has long been seen as an example of Israeli business acumen.

So, it's no wonder that the MBA program--a joint venture between Tel Aviv's Recanati school and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management--would have asked Levin to speak. Aside from plugging his job search, Levin focused on Israel's unique history and tough political climate. "To stabilize this region, we must educate all sectors of society and include all the nations: Christians, Jews, Muslims, groups such as the haredim, the Druze, everyone," Levin said. "Everyone should be an important contribution to the economy. That's the task."

Ironically enough, it was Teva's own contribution to the Israeli economy that brought Levin's conflict with the company's board to a head. Israeli labor leaders and government officials took offense at the domestic cost cuts Teva planned--and some quickly zeroed in on executive salaries, calling on management to take a pay cut for solidarity reasons. As Teva announced Levin's departure, Chairman Phillip Frost took a dig at his handling of the Israeli layoff plans, which Teva quickly put on hold as the protest escalated.

But Levin had already raised his own objections to Teva's operations. In a letter to the board, the company's top managers balked at directors' close involvement with Teva's day-to-day business. And Levin made clear that he would have preferred to stick around at Teva and see his plans through. Since his departure, analysts have raised questions about Teva's ability to find a CEO willing and able to do the job as well as or better than Levin, who joined the company from U.S.-based Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY). And now, market-watchers are tossing about the idea of a big merger--perhaps with one of its generics rivals, such as Actavis ($ACT) or Mylan ($MYL).

Meanwhile, Levin says he's happy to be in Israel. "I intend to devote my time in the short term to get to know Israel and Israelis, and to see everything that this country has to offer," he said. "There is a special warmth and love in Israel, and I'm proud to be an Israeli." Now, about those job offers...

- read the Globes story

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