Pfizer

John Gapper

This time last year, I wrote a New Year column with seven predictions for events that would occur in business in 2011. It is time for reckoning and I must say that I scored poorly, with only three out of seven correct.

To be fair to me, the predictions were deliberately provocative. As I noted at the time:  ”They are intended to be adventurous enough to be interesting – even if I turn out to be wrong, they should at least be things to watch.”

I was at least right about that. With no more excuses, let’s take a look at my predictions and what happened. Read more

Andrew Hill

Old habits die hard in US corporate governance: Pfizer has just announced it will hand chief executive Ian Read the chairmanship. That re-creates the dual chair-CEO role and goes against the slow US trend towards splitting the two top board jobs.

According to Spencer Stuart, the headhunter, 41 per cent of top US companies now separate the roles (though the chairmanship is too often held by the ex-CEO), compared with 26 per cent in 2001. So, as governance expert Lucy Marcus tweeted on Tuesday, Pfizer’s decision is an “astonishing step backward“. Read more

John Gapper

Whether or not Pfizer’s tactics to preserve Lipitor sales as it loses its patent protection succeed, they are a sobering reflection of the lack of success of big pharmaceutical companies in trying to replicate their past days of blockbuster glory.

Alan Rappeport’s report on how Pfizer is heavily cutting the price of its anti-cholesterol drug to see off generic competition illustrates how important blockbuster drugs from the past remain to Big Pharma.

As Forbes noted in a long piece on Lipitor, this reflects the prolonged squeeze on pharma companies, which have been struggling to come up with new products to replace those now falling off the patent cliff – Lipitor being the prime example. Read more

Andrew Hill

I have two immediate reactions to the shock announcement that António Horta-Osório is temporarily stepping aside as chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group because of stress. One is frivolous, one serious:

1) His predecessor – the eerily impassive Eric Daniels – must have the constitution of an ox, given that he led the big UK bank through the credit crunch, a controversial merger with HBOS and the 2008 government recapitalisation. (Mr Daniels is a smoker, which I suppose may have helped calm his nerves).

2) The rarity with which top executives admit to suffering stress must mean boards are underestimating the occurrence of stress-related illness at the top – with potentially dire consequences. Read more