The chicken man is out, and a Pfizer
Reports as to why the sudden change range from personal reasons, to a mutual decision, to a Bloomberg report that said that the board asked former CEO Jeff Kindler to step down. But it really doesn't matter why Kindler left. The question shareholders should be asking is whether the new CEO Ian Read can right this ship.
The answer is a resounding, "Maybe!" In my opinion, it depends on whether Read can shake the long-standing Pfizer mantra that bigger is better. Being a lifer -- he started working at Pfizer in 1978 -- may mean sticking with the status quo. Then again, maybe he's been around long enough to have seen the strategy fail enough times to be convinced it's time for a change.
Shares of Pfizer peaked in 1999, long before Kindler, most famous for turning around Boston Market when it was a division of McDonald's, took the helm in 2006. Pfizer's downturn started with the $90 billion acquisition of Warner-Lambert in 2000. Acquiring Pharmacia two years later just made the problem worse. Integrating large acquisitions is tough work.
As the shares fell, I finally thought there might be potential. I named Pfizer my best stock for 2009 after its share price dropped so much that it was offering a dividend yield above 7%, and Kindler looked like he was showing restraint while he looked for cheap acquisitions to deploy Pfizer's $26 billion war chest.
Then Kindler went out and bought Wyeth and cut Pfizer's dividend. I changed my tune. Sure, the additional revenue made Lipitor a smaller portion of the revenue. But it didn't solve the real problem: Pfizer needs growth.
Using that cash to license a bunch of drugs and make a few smaller acquisitions would have been a better option than plopping down $68 billion for Wyeth. You can buy a heck of a lot of companies the size of Seattle Genetics
Kindler said he wanted to be more like Johnson & Johnson
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