As had been expected for several days, Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Peter Dolan was ousted today, along with general counsel Richard Willard. This is part of the fallout over the Apotex disaster, and it was looking increasingly like the company was either going to have to fire these two or face possible charges.
I can recommend this analysis by Robert Steyer at TheStreet.com. As he points out, the abortive Apotex deal was both stupid and embarrassing. BMS had already been in trouble over channel stuffing, inflating its wholesale numbers to meet targets, so it wasn't the best time to sign an envelope-pushing deal with a competitor to restrict supply.
Bristol-Myers Squibb, for its part, has released a statement on the Apotex deal, which contains this ringing declaration of principle:
". . .there is no evidence from which to conclude that the company or any of its employees acted unlawfully."
Well, OK then! Actually, I'm sure that's true. But if you restrict that statement to the boardroom and replace the word "unlawfully" with "intelligently", we could have some room to negotiate here. There have been signs for years now. Under Dolan, BMS has grievously overpaid for several assets (in my view and that of many others) and made some serious high-level mistakes. It's also been a rather grim investment during his tenure. I mean, I mock Pfizer for its stock performance, but you'd have been better off owing it than BMS over the last few years - heck, you'd have been better off owning Merck and riding out the Vioxx news. Don't believe me? (To be fair, your best investment choice among those three would have been to bury your money in a coffee can in the backyard, but you don't often get that option from the typical financial advisor).
Now, I made the argument here a month or two ago that CEOs don't matter as much as people think they do - but I left myself some room to maneuver, because that statement applies to anyone reasonably competent. Some of my readers made the point that the people at the top can set the tone for an entire organization, for better or worse, and perhaps this is a good example. I hope the company gets its act together, because it should be a bigger force in the industry than it is. The past few years, from what I can see, have been a wasted opportunity, and this is no time to be wasting them.