Vivus proxy rival pitches ex-AstraZeneca sales chief as CEO

Vivus proxy challenger First Manhattan has found its new recruit. The investment firm's search for a presumptive CEO for Vivus ended with former AstraZeneca commercial chief Tony Zook. After all, First Manhattan and other shareholders are up in arms about Vivus' fumbled Qsymia launch. Who better than a Big Pharma launch specialist to turn the story around?

As Vivus' ($VVUS) July 15 annual meeting nears, the company and its proxy-contest rival have been trading barbs. First Manhattan, of course, proposed its own slate of 9 directors to replace Vivus' entire board. But the firm, which owns 9.9% of Vivus shares, took it a step further by announcing it would hunt up a new CEO.

Enter Tony Zook. He lost out in AstraZeneca's ($AZN) recent restructuring when CEO Pascal Soriot assigned new chiefs for each of three new commercial units--eliminating Zook's job in the process. But Zook left with some key accomplishments to his credit, including the launch of one of AstraZeneca's top sellers of all time, Nexium, and a newer blockbuster, Crestor.

Having a Big Pharma veteran as CEO isn't the same thing as having a Big Pharma marketing partner to take Qsymia and run with it. That's what First Manhattan and a host of analysts recommend. But it would certainly introduce a new marketing mindset. We'll see how the rest of Vivus' shareholders feel on July 15.

- read the Reuters news