ImClone's Poetic Justice

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

A week after Bristol-Myers Squibb made its move for ImClone Systems , one of the people who made the biotech infamous could be getting out of the clink.

A source tells me IMCL founder and former CEO Sam Waksal will be walking out of the federal prison in Milan, Michigan (pronounced My-lun, not like the Italian Mih-lahn) between today and August 14th. "New York Magazine" recently reported that he'll go straight to a halfway house in the Bronx for awhile before going completely free.The Bronx is a major comedown for the guy who was a bit of of a player in the trendy, expensive SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Waksal pleaded guilty to calling his father and his daughter and telling them to hurry up and sell their ImClone shares before his company publicly released the news that the Food and Drug Administration was kicking back the application for approval of the cancer drug Erbitux. Of course, that announcement caused the stock to take a dive. It's the same phone-tree selling cycle that Martha Stewart got caught up in and later ended up going to prison for lying to the feds about the transaction.

I'm guessing Waksal doesn't feel the same way, but man, time flies. It seems like yesterday I was standing outside his first federal home in Schuykill, Pennsylvania when he surprisingly had the driver stop the car so he could get out and make a statement for the small gaggle of reporters staking out the joint. But others who know Waksal say that didn't surprise them at all because the guy was like a moth to a flame when cameras were around.

During the whole scandal, I always had to bark questions at Waksal as he quickly walked through the scrum of photographers and reporters at the courthouse. He only sat down for an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes". I'm not sure the likes of Steve Kroft and other media stars still have the level of interest they once had in Waksal, so maybe I've got a fighting chance this time. I've put in a request to talk to him one-on-one, but I'm not holding my breath.

In preparation for his release, I went back and re-read the federal complaint against him. And one thing still sticks out: That Waksal was, according to the government, $80 million in debt, more than $65 million of that was "margin debt secured by his shares of ImClone stock," and that he was paying more than $800,000 a month--$800,000 a month!!!--"to service his indebtedness".

Now, Sam Waksal is almost done paying his debt to society/investors.

Questions? Comments?