Schulman leaves Pfizer weeks before start date of new top vaccine job

Amy Schulman

When Pfizer ($PFE) unveiled plans to carve up the business into three units, the company's top lawyer Amy Schulman was one of the big winners. Schulman was to take charge of a new unit that combined the vaccine, cancer and consumer products businesses. Now, two weeks before Schulman was due to start in the role, she is out of a job.

Pfizer announced the change in plans in a brief, businesslike press release, in which Schulman and the company are said to have agreed to separate. Schulman receives the typical thanks for her work and good luck with her future endeavors, but there is nothing to indicate why she is no longer taking on one of the biggest jobs in pharma. Albert Bourla, a 20-year Pfizer veteran, will now head the unit formerly earmarked for Schulman, with Susan Silbermann stepping in as general manager of the global vaccines business.

From the outside it looks like a sudden, last-minute change, and media reports suggest that is the case. Fortune senior editor Pattie Sellers reports she had lunch with Schulman on Thursday. The following Tuesday Pfizer said Schulman was out of a job. Sellers reports Schulman was holding a celebratory dinner with her legal team on Thursday evening, yet just days later she left Pfizer. The Fortune article speculates a power play gone wrong or clash with a senior colleague could be behind the sudden turnaround.

While the decision has a big impact on the individuals involved, for Pfizer as a company the strategy is unchanged. On Jan. 1 it will still divide its business units into three groups, one of which will combine vaccines with cancer and consumer products under the leadership of Bourla. The new structure is widely seen as a precursor to a possible breakup of the company. Investors will now get a detailed look at the financial performance of each segment to help them gauge the value of splitting up Pfizer.

- here's Pfizer's press release
- read the Fortune article
- check out FiercePharma's take