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We've seen some significant management changes in 2013. Microsoft made headlines for the announcement that Steve Ballmer will step down, and J.C. Penney had investors talking when it fired Ron Johnson. But there were also three health-care stocks that made news for their changes at the top.
Of course, management changes are part of the business world. All companies try to ensure a smooth transition, and every new CEO wants to make a mark. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they don't. The question, then, is whether the management changes at Amarin, Vivus, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries have been good or bad for investors as we look ahead to 2014.
The most recent change came at Amarin, where CEO Joseph S. Zakrzewski resigned after the company's stock price plunged 80% in a little over two months. He had seemingly pursued a high-risk strategy in significantly increasing the company's cost base when FDA approval was some way off (and, as it turns out, unlikely), while seeking a major partner could have been a more logical and less risky strategy.
John F. Thero, Amarin's president, has stepped into the CEO hot seat, but he hasn't been at the job long enough to know what strategy he might pursue. It may be wise to attempt to deliver a period of stability for investors after the recent turbulence, with costs being rationalized and a potentially less risky route to approval. Overall, changes at Amarin could prove to be positive for investors, although on a relative basis that shouldn't be too tough to deliver.
Next up is Vivus, where CEO Anthony Zook resigned after just one month on the job for health reasons. Zook had been installed after a shareholder revolt over disappointing sales, but he didn't have time to stamp his own authority on the company and affect the change in strategy that shareholders were seeking.
His replacement is Seth H.Z. Fischer, and it seems likely that he will focus on cutting costs in the short term, while concentrating on sales growth and routes to market over the medium to long term.
Although it's too soon to tell how successful he tenure could be, his experience as chairman at Johnson & Johnson should serve him well and 2014 should see a pivot to a tighter and more long-term-focused strategy for Vivus. Of course, Zook's resignation means investors may have to wait a little longer for the changes that had brought him to the job in the first place.
The third hot health-care change in the CEO's office was at Teva, where Jeremy Levin stepped down in October because of disputes with the board. Immediately following his departure, shares fell by 12% but have since recovered to within 5% of their pre-fall price.
The loss of Levin could continue to hit Teva hard, as he seemed to be implementing a logical strategy that the market and many investors supported. His interim replacement is the current CFO, Eyal Desheh, and the alleged interference by Chairman Phillip Frost during Levin's tenure could make it difficult to find a replacement of Levin's caliber.
With no permanent CEO is in place, the short-term future for Teva continues to look uncertain, although it clearly still has significant potential over the medium to long term.
For Amarin, Vivus and Teva, change at the top is likely to mean a different strategic path in 2014, which should make the year to come a more successful one for all three.
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