June 25 First Manhattan Company (FMC) stepped up
the pressure in its proxy fight with obesity drug maker Vivus
Inc, saying it was in advanced discussions with
potential chief executive candidates to replace the current CEO
should it prevail in gaining control of the Vivus board.
In a filing with U.S. securities regulators, FMC said it had
gone as far as hiring executive recruiters with biopharma
experience to identify top CEO candidates.
"We are encouraged by the quality of those candidates and
their level of interest," First Manhattan, Vivus' largest
shareholder with nearly 10 percent of outstanding shares, said
on Tuesday in a news release and the filing.
"We believe a new board independent of an entrenched CEO
will attract the best talent to Vivus to lead the company
forward," the FMC statement said.
FMC has put forth a slate of six candidates that it hopes
will win seats on the Vivus board at the shareholder meeting
next month, and said it was taking steps to make a leadership
change immediately should it prevail.
"We are in advanced discussions with several senior
executives to step in as CEO on Day One," FMC said.
FMC has been highly critical of Vivus management, saying it
had thoroughly mismanaged the launch of the potential
blockbuster obesity pill Qsymia. It has said Vivus made a
critical error by not replacing its longtime CEO, Leland Wilson,
with a top executive with extensive commercial experience in
launching new medicines prior to the Qsymia approval.
Qsymia has had minuscule sales since its launch and the
Vivus share price is half of what it was around the heady times
of the September U.S. approval of one of the first new diet
drugs in decades.
The Vivus shareholder meeting is scheduled for July 15.