Icahn pushes for Biogen sale

Carl Icahn (photo) has big plans for Biogen Idec. The same day the biotech named one of the billionaire investor's nominees to its board, averting a prolonged battle, Icahn told reporters that he would look into selling the company, Bloomberg reports.

"Biogen has a great pipeline with great drugs, that at the right price" should be sold to a big pharmaceutical company, Icahn said in a phone interview. He also proposed splitting the company into two separate business units, one focusing on neurology and the other on cancer.

On Monday, Biogen announced it was appointing Icahn nominee Dr. Eric Rowinsky to its board--and also nominated Dr. Stephen Sherwin, chairman of the Biotechnology Industry Organization--temporarily increasing the number of seats to 13 from 12. Icahn Partners will withdraw its other nominees and vote its shares for the slate Biogen has chosen. In January, Icahn launched a third proxy fight with Biogen and aimed for three more seats on the company's board of directors.

But in the meantime, he plans to reduce bureaucracy and costs to improve Biogen, something that he did at ImClone Systems before its $6.5 billion sale to Eli Lilly in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. And without the proxy battle, Biogen can focus on finding its next CEO. Earlier this year, Biogen's CEO and President James Mullen (photo) said he would step down. "Certainly the task would have been much more difficult in the context of a multimonth proxy fight," spokeswoman Amy Reilly said, according to the WSJ.

Next on Icahn's list: Genzyme. In February, he nominated four people to serve on Genzyme's board of directors--including himself. "It's a lot easier to fight on one front than on two," Icahn told Bloomberg. "Having a two-front war is more difficult." Even though Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer has said the company welcomes "constructive dialogue" with Icahn, the company has reached a deal with another activist investor group, Relational Investors, which has agreed to back the company's board nominees at this year's shareholders meeting (in return for a promise of future board representation).  

- check out the WSJ coverage
- see Bloomberg's report

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