UPDATED: Novo's purported CEO-to-be is out the door amid executive reshuffle

Former Novo Nordisk COO Kåre Schultz

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) blew out the first quarter, with sales increases all over the place, and a 73% leap in earnings. But the most surprising part of that press release is slotted in at the very end: "Kåre Schultz, president and COO, leaves Novo Nordisk."

Schultz had been expected to take the CEO chair from Lars Rebien Sørensen, who's 61 years old. Sørensen wasn't exactly ready to head for the exit--his contract expires in 2019--but in the meantime, Novo had elevated Schultz to president and COO. The idea--or so it was said--was to get Schultz ready for the top job.

Now, it's on to Plan B.

"It's been no secret that Mr Schultz had been looking forward to assuming my position. The board decided it wanted to have greater visibility on our corporate launches in key markets," Sørensen said during Thursday's earnings call (as quoted by Reuters). "As a consequence, the COO job disappeared."

The Danish drugmaker is shuffling top management to add several people to its executive committee, including U.S. commercial chief Jesper Høiland, European commercial chief Jerzy Gruhn, and supply chain chief Henrik Wulff.

"We are at a stage where we have a completely unprecedented number of launches of new medicines," Sørensen said. "It was about time to look at the organization and pull the international business leaders closer."

Sørensen talked more expansively about the company's Q1 results, marked by sales increases of top products Victoza (up 18% in constant currencies, twice as much operationally) and Levemir (up 13%). North American sales grew across the board by 12%. Margins grew by 1.6 percentage points, thanks to foreign exchange boosts.

Overall, Novo's first-quarter sales were up by 9% in local currencies, to 25.2 Danish crowns, or about $3.78 billion. Profits? Almost 10 billion crowns, or about $1.49 billion, including the partial divestment of its IT subsidiary, NNIT, for an increase of 53%. Without that sale, profits were up 22%.

- read the Novo release
- get more from Reuters

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Editor's Note: This story was updated with comments from Novo's earnings call.