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Hey, Genentech: Now It's Your Turn

Arthur Levinson
Source: gene.com
Arthur Levinson

I've been trying for years to get an interview with Genentech CEO Art Levinson. As far as I know, he's never done a TV chat. Every time I've asked the answer has come back no. I've gotten pretty good access to other execs, but never the top dog.

Adding to my frustration is that he is so scary smart, opinionated, outspoken, candid and quotable when I've seen or heard him at analyst/investor meetings and on conference calls. I have no doubt he'd be a colorful interview. But even though he's the guy in charge, now I'm guessing the lawyers are putting a muzzle on him as the battle with Roche intensifies.

So, here's my latest (futile) attempt.

Dear Art:

I know your President of Product Development, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, gets up before dawn to run, but I'm not sure what kind of hours you keep. If you were still asleep, I don't know if you set your TiVo to record my exclusive interview with Roche CEO Severin Schwan on "Squawk Box" at 4:15 a.m. your time today. So, in case you didn't catch it, here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Sincerely,

Mike

Schwan sat down with me ahead of the company's analyst meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. In reaction to my comment at the end of the interview about Levinson having never done an interview, Mr. Schwan later told me off camera—perhaps half in jest—that maybe someday he, I and Levinson could all sit down for an interview.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen. Mr. Schwan is gonna have to do some major soothing of egos (not mine) to pull that off.

The fight for Genentech is getting good. It's a great story. But, so far, with the exception of carefully crafted quotes in press releases, rehearsed statements at meetings and SEC-filings from DNA, it's been a one-sided Roche story.

Art, here's your opportunity to get your side out. Your people know how to reach me.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com