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Ian Read Is Pfizer's New CEO

Pharmaceuticals: Thirty-year company veteran takes over from Jeffrey Kindler

by Rick Mullin
December 13, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 50

Credit: Pfizer (both)
Credit: Pfizer (both)

Pfizer has named Ian C. Read, currently head of the firm’s biopharmaceutical operations, as president and CEO. He replaces Jeffrey B. Kindler, who resigned.


The Dec. 5 announcement came abruptly on a Sunday, catching most industry watchers by surprise. It followed by a matter of days Merck & Co.’s announcement that Kenneth C. Frazier will replace Richard T. Clark as CEO on Jan. 1, 2011.

Read, 57, joined Pfizer in 1978. He held management positions in Latin America before being named president of Pfizer's international pharmaceuticals group in 1996. Since 2006, Read has managed business units accounting for 85% of the company’s sales.

Kindler joined Pfizer in 2002, serving as general coun­­­sel before becoming CEO in 2005. Observers viewed his replacement of Henry A. McKinnell Jr. as an acknowledgment by Pfizer that it needed to change.

Indeed, Kindler oversaw a transformation that included the formation of global business units, a restructuring of research, and an expansion in areas such as biologic drugs. His tenure was capped by Pfizer’s 2009 acquisition of Wyeth.

In a statement, Kindler noted that the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Wyeth deal was a logical time for him to turn over the reins, adding that leading the huge drug company has been “extremely demanding on me personally.”

The announcement came as a surprise, says Michael P. Krensavage, principal of Krensavage Asset Management. “Usually companies try to telegraph the next chief executive,” he says. “Look at Merck. The board there had been giving Frazier greater responsibility.”

Although little is known about what transpired behind the scenes at Pfizer, Krensavage notes that shareholders are frustrated with the company’s stock price. “And it is yet to be seen if Kindler accomplished his most important job—bringing drugs to market,” he adds.

In a note to investors, stock analyst Jami Rubin of Goldman Sachs applauded the move. “Change will be good for Pfizer, which will now be led by a seasoned executive with over 20 years’ experience running many different regions and businesses in pharma,” Rubin wrote.



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