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ImClone Goes Hollywood

Sam Waksal, former CEO of ImClone Systems
AP
Sam Waksal, former CEO of ImClone Systems

The Founder and former CEO of ImClone Systems, Sam Waksal, who is now sitting in prison for his role in the trading scandal that ensnared Martha Stewart, had a reputation for rubbing elbows with the New York glitterati and the Hollywood set. Well, it looks like ImClone is reliving its past. In a press release this morning, the biotech company which makes the cancer drug Erbitux is in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb, says Dr. Andrew Bodnar is resigning from the Board of Directors.

Dr. Bodnar is the former lieutenant of ousted Bristol CEO Peter Dolan and he allegedly played a very significant role in the bungled deal to try to keep generic Plavix off the market. Bristol announced late yesterday that it had reached a plea deal with the Feds over the Plavix debacle. The company is admitting to two felony counts of making false statements to a federal agency. And it's paying a $1 million fine.

In the press release Bristol says, "The charges relate to representations made by a former Bristol-Myers Squibb senior executive during the renegotiation of the proposed settlement agreement (the Plavix deal with the privately-held Canadian drug company Apotex) in May 2006 that were not disclosed to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. That unidentified former exec is believed to be Dr. Bodnar. A spokesman for Bristol will only tell me that Dr. Bodnar "recently retired" from the company. So, it's more than just a coincidence that the morning after Bristol makes that announcement Dr. Bodnar resigns from the ImClone Board.

But wait'll you hear who ImClone has chosen as his replacement. Not another Bristol exec who's an M.D. Not someone with a background in biotech, big pharma or drug marketing. The new ImClone Director is a guy named Jules Haimovitz. "Who's that?," you ask.

Well, according to the ImClone press release he "served as the Vice Chairman and Managing Partner of Dick Clark Productions, Inc., a producer of programming for television, cable networks and syndicators. From June 1999 to July 2004, Mr. Haimovitz served in various capacities at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Inc., including President of MGM Networks Inc. From July 1997 to February 1999, he served as President and COO of King World Productions, Inc." That's the company that syndicates shows like "Jeopardy!", "Wheel of Fortune", "Dr. Phil" and "Inside Edition" just to name a few.

Mr. Haimovitz has also been an executive at Spelling Entertainment and Viacom and sits on the Board of Directors of Blockbuster. In the press release ImClone's Chairman thanks Dr. Bodnar for his "dedicated years of service to the company" and explains that it will benefit from Haimovitz's "executive talents and from his experience in managing various creativity-based businesses." Huh? How does a creative Hollywood guy add value to a biotechnology company?

Alex Denner, the Chairman of ImClone's Executive Committee, in a telephone interview explained the company's rationale behind picking Mr. Haimovitz, "He had fantastic business experience. He really is a very bright guy who kind of understands creativity-based business. You think of Hollywood and it's about identifying and picking scripts and TV shows that are likely to be successful before you have the market experience that they are going to be successful. It's kind of very similar to the drug development process. Many of the same analytical techniques apply."

I pressed Mr. Denner to tell me if ImClone Director and activist investor Carl Icahn identified Mr. Haimovitz to the company. He told me that beyond the above quote he would only speak to me about that off the record. I declined. The conversation ended.

By the way, Jules Haimovitz and Carl Icahn are both on the Board of Directors at Blockbuster.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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