And the changing of the guard continues. This time, it's Eli Lilly that's ushering in a new chief executive: John C. Lechleiter (photo), president and chief operating officer, will take over for CEO and Chairman Sidney Taurel (photo) when the latter retires at the end of March. Lechleiter will be president and CEO; Taurel will remain chairman until the end of 2008.
Lechleiter has been heir apparent since 2005, when Taurel anointed him as president. Taurel says he's ready to hand off power now that the company is "exceeding both our and our shareholders' expectations." Two weeks ago, Lilly announced that its 2008 earnings would outpace 2007 results by about 14 percent. Which may be great for shareholders, but not so great for the company's workforce; Lilly plans to lay off staffers to cut costs and offset generic competition.
Of course, layoffs are almost de rigeur in Big Pharma these days as companies retrench in the face of pricing pressure, new generics, and regulatory caution. And Lilly faces all the same challenges as its rivals. Lechleiter will be just one among a large cohort of new execs trying to steer pharma through treacherous waters. Who'll find smooth sailing first? That's the question.