Forest Labs Picks Former Bausch Leader Saunders as its CEO

Forest Laboratories Inc., maker of the Alzheimer’s drug Namenda and blood-pressure pill Bystolic, chose former Bausch & Lomb Holdings Inc. leader Brenton L. Saunders as its next chief executive officer.

Saunders, 43, will take over Oct. 1 for Howard Solomon, who’s retiring after holding the job for more than 30 years, New York-based Forest said today in a statement. Solomon, 86, will remain as chairman of the board until next year’s shareholders meeting, when Saunders is expected to succeed him in that position as well. Solomon’s retirement was announced in May.

Saunders ended a three-year tenure as Bausch & Lomb CEO last month after the eye-care company was sold for $8.7 billion to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. At Forest, he’ll take the reins at a drugmaker searching for new products to offset the loss of patent protection for its former top-seller, the antidepressant Lexapro.

“We have long thought Brent would be an ideal CEO to succeed Howard when the time came,” Kenneth Goodman, Forest’s presiding independent director, said in the statement. “Over the course of our announced search and rigorous board process, during which we seriously evaluated a number of excellent candidates, this belief became crystal clear.”

Forest rose less than 1 percent to $43.56 at the close in New York trading. The company has gained 23 percent this year.

Saunders has served on the board since 2011. Before Bausch & Lomb, he worked for six years at Schering-Plough Corp., the drugmaker bought in 2009 by Merck & Co.

Icahn Praise

The choice drew praise from Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor who is Forest’s second-largest shareholder. Icahn staged two proxy battles with Forest in recent years before gaining control of a board seat in 2012. Among his complaints was that Solomon’s son, David, might be picked to run the company.

Saunders’ “impressive record at Bausch & Lomb and Schering-Plough are cause for optimism about Forest’s future,” Icahn said in a statement. “We were happy to have assisted in the selection process and we look forward to working cooperatively and constructively with the board and with Mr. Saunders to increase value for all shareholders.”

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