The Roche Management Merry-Go-Round


Talk about a short tenure.

Only eight months after Roche installed him as CEO of Genentech, Pascal Soriot is moving on (up?) to become COO of Roche's Pharma Division. The Swiss drugmaker, which bought all of Genentech earlier this year, made the management shakeup announcement early this morning, but tried to couch it in a press release headlined, "Roche announces new Corporate Executive Committee."

The COO job Soriot is taking is currently classified as a CEO position. But Roche's Pharma Division CEO, Bill Burns, is going to retire at the end of the year.

Coincidentally, Burns was on CNBC only yesterday talking about the company's media briefing on the H1N1-fighting drug Tamiflu. Not surprisingly, he made no mention during the interview of the pending changes.

In this Roche press release issued last Aprilthe company announced that Genentech's Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations, Ian Clark, would become EVP Global Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer of Roche Pharma. Clark was among just a few Genentech senior executives who were staying on board. He has a degree in biological sciences, but comes from the sales and marketing side of the drug biz. Former Genentech CEO Art Levinson is a scientist who came out of the lab.

I wonder about the backstory here.

Before Roche bought all of Genentech there was a lot of talk about the uniqueness of the Genentech culture and whether a Swiss pharmaceutical company would essentially ruin it by imposing its way of doing things. Roche management insisted it would let Genentech be Genentech. But then it went ahead and quickly put a Roche exec in charge of Genentech. And now, a short five months later, it's pulling him out and replacing him with a true-blue Genentecher, Ian Clark. Interestingly, though, Roche says Clark will not be part of the reconfigured executive committee. He will instead report to Soriot and not to Roche Group CEO Severin Schwan.

Now that it's a wholly-owned part of Roche, Genentech just isn't the sexy, tradeable big biotech that used to occupy so much airtime and print. And Roche is listed in Zurich, so there isn't much that's actionable here. Nonetheless, the surprise announcement piqued my curiosity.

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