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Onyx Hires New CEO--But Here's What You Won't Find In PR

Wednesday, 27 Feb 2008 | 3:28 PM ET

Recently I've blogged and raised the question in an interview about whether Onyx Pharmaceuticals might be having a tough time finding a new leader. Well, nearly six months since longtime Chairman and CEO Hollings Renton announced his plans to retire this year, the biotech company has filled the spot.

Veteran pharma and biotech exec Dr. N. (Don't know what the initial stands for) Anthony Coles will take over March 31st. And Renton will make a clean break. He will even give up his seat on the Board.

According to an SEC filing, Onyx will pay Dr. Coles $625,000 a year plus a hiring bonus of 200-grand. And he'll be eligible to get an annual cash bonus equal to his salary if things go well. He's also getting 350,000 stock options and 60,000 shares of restricted common stock. In addition to paying his moving-related expenses, Onyx will give the new guy $10,000 a month for the first year as a "housing allowance." And then when he finds a place to buy they're gonna give him 6-grand a month in mortgage assistance for two years.

I had wondered whether because of persistent speculation that ONXX could get taken out or maybe because it's kind of a one-trick-pony right now that not many people would want the job. Well, according to the same SEC filing which you can see for yourself here,if there's a "change of control" (code for "if we get bought) he'll get cash severance of four times his salary plus a bunch of other benefits.

For his part, Renton will walk away with more than a million bucks, plus $80,000 for first-year, post-retirement "reasonable administrative support services" and he can bill Onyx 625 bucks an hour for consulting work for three years.

After a phenomenal run-up last year on positive liver cancer data and approval of its drug Nexavar in that indication, the stock lost a quarter of its value in one day last week because Nexavar didn't work and may have been unsafe in a lung cancer study.

Onyx and Bayer are partners on Nexavar.

Renton is one of those biotech CEOs who has been very accessible and media savvy over the past few years as Nexavar matured in the pipeline and came to market. Dr. Coles is coming on board with a different set of challenges, but I hope we enjoy the same kind of professional relationship.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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