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December 6, 2010
Came the sudden news over the weekend that Jeff Kindler is stepping down as CEO of Pfizer. Actually, it's not so sure that "stepping down" is the right verb phrase to use. No one knew that he was retiring, and the departure of a CEO is usually given a bit more foreshadowing. (It's also usually press-released during the working week, for that matter).
No, this looks sudden. Honestly, though, I'd be surprised if Kindler doesn't feel a sense of relief stealing over him. Pfizer's had a horrendous time of it under him, but a lot of the horrendousness was already in motion when he took over. He's done nothing (given the Wyeth deal) to slow down the horrendous momentum, but Pfizer seems to have decided on its runaway-train corporate model many years ago.
So it's hard to see how changing CEOs is going to affect things much. The company is way too huge, and Lipitor is still going off patent. Even if the new guy (Ian Read) were to have an absolute magic wand effect on research productivity (and research luck), he won't be in the job long enough (ten years? twelve?) to see the effects at the other end of the pipeline. And if he wants to reverse course, to stop trying to acquire-your-way-out-of-trouble, that's going to be very difficult. In fact, given how Pfizer's unloaded various facilities (and people) after these acquisitions, it's going to be like trying to unbake a cake.
I wish Read luck. But I wouldn't run Pfizer, not for what twice they're paying him.
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