Pfizer CEO Axed: Handsome Mr. Kindler New CEO.
In a shocking news revelation Friday evening, Pfizer announced that CEO Hank McKinnell will lose his CEO job immediately and step down from his job as Chairman one year early, in February 2007.
Jeffrey Kindler (picture), the company's general counsel and a former McDonald's executive, will succeed Henry "Hank" McKinnell as the new chief executive effective immediately.
The New York Times and the New Jersey Star Ledger both contacted me with the news only a couple of hours ago and asked for my thoughts on this development.
I gave the following comment to the New York Times, (also see Breaking News: Anonymous Letter May Determine Who Becomes New Pfizer CEO for background):
"Not totally unexpected, but also a complete break with Pfizer tradition. Will cause major pressure on business organization, which has fought hard on Katen's side.
Be prepared for more major changes. Big ones.
I think you need to ask why Katen DIDN'T get the job. She has now been passed over twice, in spite of being second in command, and logical choice, after all she runs the business . . . what baggage does she have that we do not know about?
Also, Kindler doesn't know who sent that letter, but it is not going to improve his relation with Katen. In fact, the letter may have helped him, depending on content, since it may have appeared unseamly.
Shedlarz appears to have been playing nicely with Kindler. Katen is the one out in the cold right now. "
Of course, this is simply my opinion as an outside observer.
But so far, I have not been completely off on this.
I started my blogging career criticizing McKinnell's performance and wrote as early as February this year the following for CounterPunch:
"Greed is to become CEO for a drug company such as Pfizer, be responsible for a stock price drop of 40% over his five year tenure, twice as much as the AMEX Pharmaceutical Index, secure a $100 million retirement package while firing 16,385 Pharmacia and Pfizer employees, and get a 72% pay increase to $16.6 million as his reward."
As the year unfolded, the pressure on McKinnell and the criticism of his pay package, compared to his performance, resulted in the main press writing more and more about this. Finally, McKinnell started defending himself publicly, but it was too late. He got axed.
Not only was he asked to leave his CEO job right away and his job as Chairman of the Board a year early. Unlike Mr. Steere, his predecessor, "Mr. McKinnell already has accepted board colleagues' suggestion that he give up his Pfizer board seat once he retires," according to the WSJ.
Pfizer is one of the most important, if not the most important company in the healthcare field. And the CEO of that organization has an enormous impact on the health of our population.
Let's hope the new CEO, Jeff Kindler is not only a really good looking guy. Let's hope he is also a pragmatic person who will use common sense where McKinnell only showed inflexibility.
Then he could make a difference not only for Pfizer but also for our country.