Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

At Genentech Mum's The Word


I've got good news and bad news.

The good news: I get to do my live shots at the Genentech analyst/investor meeting Monday from inside the hotel and won't have to stand outside, 30-some-odd floors away from the event, in the snow. In past years, our camera's been kept outside. So, we're making good progress on that front.

The bad news: A Genentech spokesman just told me that the company won't be making any executives available for a live interview.

Again, in past years DNA has always offered either its Chief Financial Officer, David Ebersman, or its President of Product Development, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann.

This year, I was campaigning for the first-ever TV interview with Chairman and CEO Art Levinson, especially after the new Roche CEO, Severin Schwantalked to me a few weeks ago.

I'm not sure why Genentech isn't responding to Roche's media campaign.

Maybe the company's and executives' lawyers are telling them to publicly keep their mouths shut outside of formal presentations like Monday's meeting. Or maybe, for whatever reason, they're decidedly taking a hardline "no media" stance and letting their press releases and SEC filings do all the talkin'. That's just no fun for reporters like me who feed off of the drama of juicy takeover battles like this one.

If Roche is successful, this event is likely Levinson's Wall-Street swan song. What has he got to lose by going out guns blazing and speaking his mind on TV? Are the attorneys so afraid that he might be too much of a loose cannon? He's smart, opinionated and otherwise pretty outspoken. Genentech has made it clear that it ain't happy with Roche's offer, that it's way too low. But Miller Tabak healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder says it's not just about the money. In an email he told me, "I don't believe they want to be acquired period let alone at $86.50. I believe DNA is better off alone, too--the culture there is good at making new products. Roche not so much."

If Funtleyder's right—and I suspect he is—I don't get why Levinson or anyone on his team won't just come out and say it. But as one of the producers on "Squawk Box" replied to my email about Genentech not doing any interviews, "C'est la vie."

Questions?  Comments?