Pfizer to unveil top-tier shake-up

Jeff Kindler, Pfizer’s chief executive, is taking the most dramatic steps to date to transform the world’s biggest drugmaker by seeking to replace both the group’s chief scientist and chief financial officer.

Pfizer will announce on Monday that John LaMattina, its research and development chief, is to retire, and CFO Alan Levin is to resign as chief financial officer.

The decisions are the most important since Mr Kindler took over from Hank McKinnell who was forced out last August.

A person close to the situation at Pfizer said: “This is really a terrific opportunity to move the transformation of the company to a different level.”

Pfizer is expected to consider both internal and external candidates for the R&D position. But it is to likely focus on external candidates for its CFO, possibly outside the drugs industry, to add vigour to cost-cutting efforts.

Mr Kindler faces some of the toughest challenges in the industry. Pfizer has to offset its dependence – with new drugs, alliances and cost-cutting – upon cholesterol-reducer Lipitor. The world’s biggest-selling drug has $13bn sales annually, but in about four years will reach the end of its patent-protected commercial life.

Pfizer’s crucial pipeline drug torcetrapib failed due to safety concerns last December. The group faces increasing competition and disappointing sales for some other drugs.

Wall Street has been waiting for Pfizer to escape profit-growth doldrums by means of its enormous financial power and cost reductions.

Mr LaMattina oversaw the group’s shift from a narrow to a wide and sweeping research organisation, pushing Pfizer into cancer research and other areas. His successor will be expected to find promising early-stage drug candidates and to focus more on biotechnology. “Science is at the heart of Pfizer,” Mr Kindler said.

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