PFIZER PRESIDENCY GOES TO TOP PHARMACEUTICAL EXEC STEERE
PFIZER PRESIDENCY GOES TO TOP PHARMACEUTICAL EXEC STEERE, effective Feb. 1. In a Nov. 20 press release, Pfizer announced that William Steere, 54, will replace Gerald Laubach, PhD, who is retiring. Steere is a career Pfizer person, joining the company out of Stanford in 1959 and working his way up through management ranks from a field sales job. Steere's ascent through the top layers of corporate management has accelerated during the last four years. He assumed the top spot in Pfizer's drug business upon the departure of Sheldon Gilgore, MD, to Searle in February 1986. Steere is now positioned to advance to the chairmanship of the company when Edmund Pratt, who also serves as CEO, steps down in early 1992. In the top two spots below Steere are the head of the company's medical device business (Hospital Products Division), Edward Bessey, and the chief financial officer, Jean-Paul Valles, PhD. Both men are taking on the new titles of exec VP. The management moves, Chairman Pratt indicated, are part of a two-year transition period at the top of Pfizer. "These changes," he said, "reflect another significant step in repositioning the new team, which will take over when I step down." As part of the exchange of authority, Pratt said he intends "to turn over the chief executive responsibility next spring." Steere has led Pfizer's pharmaceutical division through three cycles: he took over the business at a point when Procardia and Feldene were reaching the peak of their product lives, then saw a slowdown in growth as those key products matured. Most recently, Steere has overseen a return to fast growth. Pfizer arguably has the most active new product pipeline among the major U.S. drug companies at the current time. Pfizer's two recent launches, Diflucan and Procardia XL, are both flourishing: nine-month figures indicate over $ 200 mil. for worldwide sales of Diflucan in 1990 and over $ 420 mil. for Procardia XL. The company is preparing to launch the alpha-blocker Cardura in the U.S. in January and is nearing an entry into the new anti-depressive (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class. Pfizer's entry into that class, sertraline, received a favorable review by an FDA advisory committee on the same day that the board elected Steere to the presidency (see related story, p. 3). Laubach is retiring after more than 40 years with Pfizer. He started with the company in 1950 as a lab scientist and came up through the research side of the firm. He became the president of the corporation in 1972 and has held that position for 18 years. A quiet but formidable figure within the industry, Laubach took an active role on the board of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association for almost two decades. His presence on the association's board was perhaps most notable during the debates on the Waxman/Hatch Act and the Dingell Diversion Act. Steere has been a member of the board since 1989. Pfizer played a major role in the development of the Waxman/Hatch Act in 1985. The company was one of the first major firms to swing its support behind the bill. That support was tied to the tailoring of specific market exclusivity rights for Feldene as part of the transition sections of the bill. Pfizer has not disclosed Steere's successor at the top of the drug business; the company's top three pharmaceutical execs now are President-Central Research Barry Bloom, PhD, 62, Senior VP-Medical/Pharmaceuticals Group John Jefferis, MD, 59, and Exec VP Pharmaceuticals Group Peter Tombros, 48. Tombros moved up to fill Steere's position when Steere advanced to the top spot in the drug business in 1106
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