Impax CEO Wilkinson out as company searches for new leadership

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Under a “mutual agreement” with the board, Impax CEO Fred Wilkinson is departing the company, to be replaced by board member J. Kevin Buchi on an interim basis. The move comes as the company’s stock has steadily drifted down in recent years and now is trading at its lowest point since 2010.

Wilkinson will depart after more than two years at the California-based generic and specialty pharma company. Buchi, who only joined the board last month, will serve until Impax can find a permanent leader. Buchi currently serves as CEO at TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals, where he's expected to step down by the end of the year. 

The move comes nearly two years after Impax won a hard fought fight to get its Parkinson’s drug Rytary approved after manufacturing issues resulted in a FDA warning letter for its Hayward, CA, plant. In a statement, Impax chairman Robert Burr said the outgoing helmsman was “instrumental” in addressing that warning letter, “which has allowed us to regain generic approvals from that facility.” But along the way were a securities lawsuit, more manufacturing problems and severe staff cuts in the wake of that initial warning letter in 2011.

Wilkinson also navigated some big buys during his time at Impax, in 2014 purchasing branded and generic products plus manufacturing with a $700 million deal for Lineage Therapeutics and Tower Holdings. Then, when Teva was casting off assets to secure its $40.5 billion buy of Allergan’s generics earlier this year, the Israeli company sold more than 15 marketed generics and other drugs to Impax for $586 million.

In a note Tuesday, RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote that though “it's not clear what specifically drove the timing,” Impax has been hit by a “challenging generic environment and a sharp reduction in consensus forecasts this year.” They see the company’s focus now shifting to whether it should restructure or “participate in sector consolidation ... which we think is broadly needed.” Impax might also evaluate its “platform and asset mix,” the analysts wrote.

Wilkinson’s departure is the second time a CEO has left the company in recent years, with cofounder and CEO Larry Hsu stepping aside following a layoff back in 2013.

Buchi is a veteran of Teva and Cephalon, among other companies.

Editor's note: This story was updated with analyst comments.