Late last year, in his first and last interview with CNBC following the blowup of the cholesterol drug torcetrapib, I asked new Pfizer CEO, Jeff Kindler, how he could go from "selling chicken" at Boston Market (he used to run the chain for McDonald's) to "selling drugs". Based on the subsequent vibe I got, it was clear that some of the Pfizer media relations people at the time didn't like the question.
I mention it now because this morning the world's biggest pharmaceutical company is calling on a telecom exec to help dial-up its numbers. Pfizer has hired the Chief Administrative Officer of Alcatel-Lucent , Frank D'Amelio, as its new Chief Financial Officer. He became CFO of Lucent early this decade when the fallen telecom was going through so much turmoil. Current Pfizer Vice Chairman and former longtime Pfizer CFO David Shedlarz will help him out. Some might argue Pfizer, trying to navigate through tough times of its own, needs pharmaceutical industry outsiders like Kindler and D'Amelio.
In a press release, CEO Kindler is quoted as saying that D'Amelio "played a crucial role in recapitalizing and restructuring the company, culminating in the 2006 Alcatel-Lucent merger, where he has led the global integration of the two companies. He has extensive knowledge of the capital markets as well as broad experience working with the investment community, regulatory bodies and rating agencies. I am confident he will bring valuable new perspectives to our business and financial strategies as we continue to respond aggressively to our challenges and opportunities and work to enhance the value of Pfizer."
Update: In a research note to clients this morning Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan writes, "Mr. D'Amelio's appointment fits the bill, in our view. In bringing in a proven and highly credentialed executive with broad operational, financial, and strategic acquisition experience, extensive visibility with investors, and a fresh, outside perspective, PFE has enhanced its senior management team and is now better positioned to address its long term growth challenges."
Ryan has a Buy rating on PFE. Deutsche owns at least one percent of the shares, makes a market in the stock and has done and wants to do more investment banking for the company.
The value of PFE shares--on a morning when the market and the drug sector are doing relatively well, is higher--but still trading near the level it was at more than a year ago when Kindler took over.