VIVUS Gets 3 CEOs in Less Than 2 Months

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Three different CEOs in a month and a half. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for VIVUS (NASDAQ: VVUS  ) accelerating sales of its obesity drug Qsymia.

The first guy, Leland Wilson, got kicked out. Never mind that he founded the company, Samuel Colin, senior managing partner at First Manhattan, VIVUS' largest shareholder, succeeded in convincing shareholders that management was the problem. Rather than letting it go to a vote, Wilson agreed to resign.

In concert with the resignation, Anthony Zook, former executive vice president for global commercial operations at AstraZeneca, took over. But less than two months later, the company announced that Zook was stepping down to deal with a previously diagnosed medical condition.

And VIVUS already has a new CEO, Seth Fischer, who was formerly a senior executive at Johnson & Johnson.

Haste makes waste?
It amazes me the speed at which VIVUS has been able to find CEOs. Are there really that many executives qualified to be CEO just sitting by the phone waiting for a job offer?

Admittedly, Colin had some time to find Zook, who agreed to take the job if the proxy vote went First Manhattan's way. But it wasn't like VIVUS' entire board was involved in the decision. From the outside, it looks like Zook was forced upon the board when it was clear the old management was going to lose the proxy fight. Presumably, the new board had to sign off on the new hire, but with six of the 10 members of the board (excluding Zook) coming from First Manhattan's slate, I doubt there was much dissension.

VIVUS didn't say when Zook decided to step down, but it surprises me that the biotech has already found a replacement. Usually someone from the company steps in as an interim CEO for a few months while a search is done.

Given the lackluster sales of VIVUS obesity drug Qsymia, it's understandable that the biotech would want to move quickly. I just hope VIVUS truly found the best candidate for the job.

Big task ahead
Fischer has an uphill battle in front of him. Despite its large size and blockbuster potential, the obesity market is a difficult place to sell drugs. Patients don't want to pay for treatments out of pocket, and doctors are apprehensive about handing out obesity pills like candy.

VIVUS really needs to find a partner to help the company compete with Arena Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ: ARNA  ) Belviq, which is marketed by Japanese giant Eisai. Even Orexigen (NASDAQ: OREX  ) , which is about a year from marketing its obesity drug Contrave, already has a partner in Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Having a partner in and of itself won't be enough, though; it's not like Belviq is flying off the shelves. It's going to take time for doctors to warm up to prescribing Qsymia, Belviq, and Contrave.

Hopefully, Fischer sticks around long enough to see that day.

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Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 5:50 PM, RSRdriver wrote:

    At least their CEO's have been qualified!

    Even the Areniacs think J.L. is a moron.

    Does not matter though because, when Arena's quarterly report comes out (soon) and the REAL Belviq numbers are announced, it's back to below $5. (maybe $4!)

    That's right! No adding 30% Osboy to dismal numbers and calling it "traction".

    No including freebies! Which they obviously have trouble giving away!

    Only Paid Scripts will give the true story and at a measly 4000 in 3 months, everyone who is not an Areniac knows what is coming!

    Don't be surprised to see under 200 payed scripts and maybe a couple of dozen refills at the most!

    It's over Areniacs!

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 6:56 PM, russim wrote:

    RS, do you have anything to say about Vivus?

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 7:01 PM, RSRdriver wrote:

    Yes, Got out in the low twenty's and went into orex in the three's.

    Will consider going long vvus if they can sustain thirteen.

    You know, Orelli (a real doctor Areniacs!) is way more qualified to give advice here.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 8:17 PM, instabash wrote:

    Can you explain to me how there are so many perfect 10's on consumer reports for Seems like the crazy areniacs are on there pumping perfect 10's?? Could I be wrong?? but with side effects I find it nearly impossible for there to be that many???

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 8:17 PM, instabash wrote:

    that's perfect scores for belviq brian...

    thanks bud

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 10:35 PM, gazoo99 wrote:


    RSRdriver.... spilt his cornflakes all over the table too!

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 10:37 PM, gazoo99 wrote:

    Talk about RANTS..... RSRdriver......

    You're the KING..................

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 11:03 PM, QTsai wrote:

    Boohuhuhuhu. RS and Instabash are crying again. Get over it sons. VVUS goes in toilet in 3 months.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 11:12 PM, instabash wrote:

    Im crying??? Looks like your beloved arena is going down the toilet... stop worrying about VVUS and start worrying about BELVIQ .... YOUR NUMBERS ARE NOT IMPRESSIVE for all the pumping you areniacs do!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2013, at 1:42 AM, RSRdriver wrote:

    Brian, I'll bet when you were writing that doctoral thesis,

    you did not know that your future writing would illicit such a juvenile response from something called a prototypical Areniac!

    Some appreciate your candor and honesty.

    In a world where some just take other's words mix them up a little and present them in hopes of scoring a few pennies or Brownie points or worse, and then have the nerve to tell you to "stay tuned" for more. Or, use these same platforms to perform an elaborate and totally illegal con on unsuspecting investors. It is good to see someone with obvious talent, standards and morals. No matter which side of my trades you are on. Thanks

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2013, at 2:26 PM, gazoo99 wrote:

    WOW........ VVUS's stock is in the tank again hard today!

    Down another $0.63 at lunch time.

    Yiks....... where's the bottom of this thing!

    Guess the P & L statement must be horrible!

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2013, at 2:54 PM, WisJOE wrote:

    RSR-- Man why cant I read an article of how Vivus is failing with out someone bringing up Arena. I swear RSR you are the biggest Areniac of them all. I think its because you are losing and just refuse to get out of Vivus . I know you said you sold but if you did you would own the only viable Co. now and I think your intelligent enough to know it's not Orexigen w/ Contrave one of insider monkey's recent article said 2017 for there heart study to be completed. You know there is no one else in the diet pill market that even has a chance besides Arena over 100m obese people 1/3 of america could Arena get 10% 10m. Recognize the opportunity even if it is a tough market. The risk reward factor just swung heavy to the reward side for Arena do to the recent failure of Vivus. Did you know that 39% of Vivus is sold short. Wow !!!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2013, at 3:59 PM, RSRdriver wrote:

    YOU are bringing up short numbers?And, if you think that I am an Areniac well, I think it's obvious who is.

    Keep buying ARNA! Doctors always go with the least effective and most expensive drug!

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