Valeant CEO's Return Time Uncertain, Family Tells Drugmaker

  • Information led to decision to name interim chief executive
  • Drugmaker reiterates adjusted profit forecast for 2016

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. said Chief Executive Officer Michael Pearson’s family informed the drugmaker last week that the timing of his return from medical leave is uncertain.

The information helped lead to the company’s decision to put Howard Schiller in charge in Pearson’s absence, the interim CEO told investors Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Valeant announced Dec. 25 that Pearson had been hospitalized for severe pneumonia. The drugmaker isn’t providing any further update on Pearson’s condition, Schiller said.

Valeant shares fell 2.2 percent to $86 at 3:05 p.m. in New York. The stock is down 25 percent since Pearson’s hospitalization, adding another challenge for a company struggling to restore its image after a series of price increases and disclosures of relationships with mail-order pharmacies drew political and legal scrutiny last year.

"It’s not a script anyone would have written," Schiller said in his first public appearance since taking the interim CEO role. "I’m going to fight this battle, through this challenge and through this noise."

2016 Outlook

On Wednesday, the drugmaker reiterated its forecast for adjusted earnings of $6.9 billion to $7.1 billion in 2016. The company isn’t altering its strategy in Pearson’s absence, but neither is it paralyzed without him at the helm, said Schiller, speaking to a packed house at the Westin St. Francis hotel. Investors should expect the company to sell smaller assets this year, he said.

"We’re not caretakers," he said.

Schiller said one of his top tasks is hiring, bringing in fresh reinforcements for employees who have been through a trying year.

"They’ve been pulled through a lot -- retention programs are in place, and they’re working, but they won’t last forever," he said. "We need to make strategic hires. We need to keep strengthening the team."

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