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Patheon begins search for new CEO

By Gareth Macdonald , 02-Dec-2010
Last updated the 02-Dec-2010 at 11:16 GMT

US CMO Patheon has begun the search for a new CEO after the departure of former chief, Wes Wheeler.

In a statement released earlier this week the contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) said Wheeler had ‘left’ and has been replaced on an interim basis by Peter Bigalow, president of North American operations.

Chairman Ramsey Frank thanked Wheeler for his contribution, but said that: “Now, the Board of Directors feels that the company has reached a stage where new leadership is required to help Patheon realize its full.”

Patheon spokeswoman Wendy Wilson declined to say whether Wheeler had stepped down voluntarily or if he had been dismissed by the firm’s management board.

She told Outsourcing-pharma that: “We have retained a Tier One executive search firm and the search will take as long as it takes to find the appropriate person,” adding that “there is no set timeline.”

Wheeler served as Patheon CEO for three years, joining the then Canada-headquartered contractor from Californian specialty pharma group Valeant Pharmaceuticals International in 2007.

The latter part of Wheeler’s tenure covered a difficult period for Patheon characterised by lower demand, higher costs associated with JLL’s defunct takeover bid and problems at its plant in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

In a note to Outsourcing-pharma Versant Partners’ analyst Douglas Loe said while the abrupt move confers a heightened business risk “we do not believe [the] timing of CEO departure reflects negatively on the outsourcing environment or Patheon’s business prospects.”

Loe cited solid performance by Patheon’s product development services (PDS) in Q3, increased quote activity in its contract manufacturing business and the impending closure of the Caguas facility as positives for the firm going forward.

Dundee Securities’ James Kuo was also positive, telling Reuters that: "Transitioning to a new CEO who has strengths in strategic partnering and business development would definitely be a positive for Patheon at this point in time."

Patheon’s share price fell 10 per cent when Wheeler’s departure was announced only to rebound 11 per cent to C$2.26 in late trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange late yesterday.

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