Pfizer abruptly replaced its CEO and chairman yesterday, saying Jeffrey B. Kindler was retiring after 4.5 years leading the world's biggest drugmaker to "recharge." Analysts saw the unexpected departure as an ouster, however, coming amid repeated failures from Pfizer's labs to produce new, much-needed blockbuster drugs, multiple patent expirations that threaten its income, and a questionable strategy of relying on acquisitions and cost cutting to overcome those mammoth problems.
The move may be an attempt to palliate investors unhappy with Pfizer's languishing stock price, which is well below that of its peers and down about 30% since Kindler took the helm. Ian Read, 57, a 32-year employee who has run Pfizer's worldwide pharmaceutical operations since 2006, took over immediately as CEO and president. The board appears to want a tighter rein for now, saying it will elect one of its members as a non-executive chairman in coming weeks.