Vivus weighs in with last-ditch effort to beat back First Manhattan contenders

The eleventh hour for Vivus ($VVUS) is drawing near. Its annual stockholder meeting is Monday, at which time it will find out if proxy brawler First Manhattan Co. has successfully instated its proposed slate of 9 new board members. Vivus has been fighting that effort, and in a last-ditch attempt to stave off that possibility, Thursday it encouraged shareholders to vote by telephone or Internet, reminding them they can even switch votes they have already cast for First Manhattan's nominees.

In a release, Vivus touted the work of its current board and management team, which it says are "successfully executing a plan to unlock the full potential" of weight-loss drug Qsymia and "maximize shareholder value." The company lists some of its leadership's achievements, such as launching capsules of the drug in 8,000 pharmacies ahead of schedule earlier this month.

But that list of achievements may be shorter than some shareholders would like, which is where First Manhattan comes in. Vivus' majority shareholder, along with some stock analysts, finds fault with the company's handling of Qsymia's launch. The drug, once expected to rake in big sales, has fallen flat, which FMC attributes to Vivus' decision to market the drug without the help of a Big Pharma partner's larger, more experienced sales force.

Since then, CEO Leland Wilson has said he's open to the possibility of joining forces with a larger pharma player for Qsymia, and Tuesday, Vivus seemed to avoid the same mistake by hooking up with Italian company Menarini for help rolling out its new erectile dysfuction treatment, Stendra. We'll see if shareholders are convinced.

- read Vivus' release