Today’s announcement in Israeli newspaper Calcalist suggested Pascal Soriot is leaving AstraZeneca (AZ) to take up the position of CEO at Israeli pharma/generic company Teva. If this news is confirmed it will be a surprising change and a major coup for Teva. Since joining AZ in August 2012, Pascal Soriot has transformed AZ from a rather traditional (some would say) moribund pharmaceutical company with the perception that its best days were behind it, to an innovator company with a revised focus on novel treatments for cancer and diabetes, divesting non-core interests along the way. The rebranding of AZ as an innovator has been exemplified by the decision to move the corporate HQ and UK research operations from Cheshire to Cambridge, UK, locating the intellectual and organisational centre of the company in one of the world’s leading biotech hubs. For AZ, Pascal has clearly been the right man at the right time. Time will tell if the innovative products at the heart of his transformation of AZ will translate into clinical and commercial success.
In all organisations there are times when the company has to undergo radical change and a disruptive CEO is what is required, but an extended process of change can in the end be counterproductive and maybe Pascal’s job at AZ is finished. The immediate response of the market was a 4% drop in AZ’s shares linked with a 7% increase in Teva’s shares, so the market consensus is that the AZ’s loss is Teva’s gain. Teva is currently without a CEO and following a series of recent high profile acquisitions is clearly in need of strong and decisive management.
It will be interesting to see if Pascal’s policy of focusing on innovation (which has been at the basis of his strategy of change at AZ) might be the foundation for transforming the world’s largest generics company.
Postscript, Monday 17th July 2017: Over the weekend it was announced that Pascal Soriot will be presenting AZ’s quarterly results, which confirms that he is staying at AZ and the newspaper report which started this speculation was incorrect. The lessons learnt were that Pascal is (in the eyes of investors) a clear asset to AZ, he is a highly respected pharmaceutical industry CEO and as such will be an attractive leader of any drug company, so subject to all sorts of offers. In the end all CEOs leave, so if AZ do not have a succession plan in place, then this will be higher on the list of “to dos” for the board.