- Longtime Pfizer leader Ian Read will retire as chair of the pharma's board of directors at the end of 2019, handing off the role to CEO Albert Bourla, the company said Friday.
- Bourla, 57, succeeded Read as Pfizer's CEO at the beginning of 2019. In his first year, Bourla has overseen significant transition, signing off on decisions to merge Pfizer's off-patent branded drug business with Mylan and to buy cancer specialist. Array BioPharma.
- After 41 years at Pfizer, the 66-year-old Read said he believed "Pfizer's best days are yet to come." Charting that future will rest with Bourla, who has already begun to make his own mark on the company.
It's now Bourla's show at Pfizer, but Read's legacy still looms large at the pharma giant.
Both executives worked at Pfizer for decades before becoming CEO — Read for 32 years after joining in 1978 and Bourla for 26 years starting in 1993. Now, Bourla will be promoted to chairman a year after starting as CEO — the same timeline that Read followed in 2011.
Despite similar career trajectories, Bourla has begun to show a different vision in leading Pfizer.
Read's tenure as CEO was marked by steady growth in Pfizer's market value, but also by high profile failures to clinch mega-deals to acquire AstraZeneca and Allergan.
In his first month, Bourla made clear he held different priorities. "Large M&A could derail us from execution," he said on a Jan. 29 conference call with Wall Street analysts.
Instead, Bourla has made a handful of smaller acquisitions, at least relative to Pfizer's size, while refocusing the company to its biopharma business.
This summer, Pfizer closed a deal to shed its consumer healthcare business into a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline and also announced it would merge Upjohn, its off-patent legacy products division, with Mylan into a separate company — parting with long-time moneymakers like Lyrica, Viagra and Lipitor that have since gone generic.
Instead, the pharma giant has focused on its growing oncology business, primarily through an $11.4 billion acquisition of Array.
Whether such corporate rejiggering translates to future growth for Pfizer remains to be seen. Shares in the drugmaker are down nearly 15% on the year.
Bourla has also faced some setbacks. For instance, Pfizer's program in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, previously acquired via a deal for Bamboo Therapeutics, stumbled in its first major data disclosure.
Focusing first on Pfizer's biopharma business comes with near-term revenue consequences, too.
Due to the spinoff of its consumer healthcare business, Pfizer lowered its projections for 2019 revenue earlier this year. Pfizer now anticipates annual revenues to fall between $50.5 billion and $52.5 billion, a decrease from $53.6 billion in 2018.