Influential Celgene Chairman Bob Hugin says goodbye amid talk of a New Jersey Senate run

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Republican leaders in New Jersey are said to be "coalescing" around Celgene Executive Chairman Bob Hugin as a contender for one of the state's seats in the U.S. Senate.

Celgene Executive Chairman Bob Hugin handed the CEO baton to Mark Alles in 2016, but he retained serious influence at the company—and in the biotech industry overall. Now, he's bidding goodbye to the company he joined 19 years ago as CFO.

Many a chief has exited a Big Biotech for other roles in biopharma. The fact that Hugin is leaving as of Monday, Feb. 5—just a week from today—lends credence to the idea that he has another plan cooking. Celgene announced the move via email late Monday morning.

Word on the street has it that Hugin has a different career in mind: politics. Early this month, Politico reported that Hugin was considering a run for his home state's U.S. Senate seat, which is up for grabs in November. He'd be running against incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez, who's fighting bribery charges filed by the U.S. Justice Department. Menendez's corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November, Politico said.

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Since Politico's news broke, InsiderNJ reported that Republican Party bigwigs are ready to back Hugin in a campaign against Menendez. He's was the frontrunner in a group of possibilities floated by party leaders, InsiderNJ's GOP source said in a report published Jan. 15. “The party’s coalescing around Hugin,” the source said.

Back in early January, Bill Palatucci, New Jersey’s representative on the Republican National Committee, told Politico he had talked with Hugin about the run.

"He’s very flattered that a lot of people have approached him to consider getting into the race," Palatucci told the outlet. "He’s made no decision. He’s still exploring whether or not to be a candidate.”

Hugin has been active in GOP politics and is said to be close to President Donald Trump. He's a PhRMA board member and was among the industry leaders who attended a meeting with Trump last January.

REPORT: Trump's pharma CEO confab: Get prices 'way down,' get 'better innovation' and get back to U.S.

Hugin certainly knows how to grow a company. As Celgene said in its announcement Monday, Hugin presided over mushrooming sales and a tripling of employment at the company, whose cash-cow cancer drug, Revlimid, continues to turn in impressive growth after years on the market. The company turned in double-digit revenue and earnings growth during Hugin's stint as Chairman and CEO, and now employs 7,500, up from 2,500 in 2010.

"Celgene has achieved unprecedented growth, produced extraordinary business results, and most importantly has developed and delivered transformational therapies for patients," Alles said in Monday's statement.

For his part, Hugin emphasized Celgene's cancer breakthroughs and work with patients in saying goodbye to the company. 

"It has been a tremendous privilege to be part of Celgene's growth and to help advance Celgene's mission to serve patients through scientific breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer and other serious medical conditions," he said.

Does Monday's abrupt announcement mean Hugin has made a decision to run? Keep an eye out for a forthcoming announcement. Hugin could well launch a campaign just as he closes the Celgene door behind him.