Pfizer CEO Ian Read named chairman of the board

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2011 5:10 PM
Pfizer CEO Ian Read named chairman of the board

Pfizer said Monday its chief executive, Ian Read, was elected to the additional position of chairman of the company's board of directors.

The move _ announced the same day as a dividend increase and a new share buyback plan _ takes effect immediately and comes a year after Read took over as president and CEO. The chairman position had previously been held by George Lorch, a former executive with Armstrong Holdings, who has served on Pfizer's board since 2000.

"Over the past year, Ian has clearly demonstrated the leadership and vision necessary to drive Pfizer's strategies and achieve the company's objectives in the continued challenging industry and macroeconomic environment," stated Lorch.

Read, 58, became the company's top executive last December, after former CEO Jeffrey Kindler was ousted unexpectedly by Pfizer's board. Kindler's four-year tenure was characterized by languishing share prices and several failures of promising drugs in late testing, including a successor to blockbuster cholesterol fighter Lipitor, which lost U.S. patent protection last month.

Read previously ran Pfizer's worldwide pharmaceutical operations and has spent his entire career with the New York company.

Pfizer also announced the election of Drs. Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Helen Hobbs to its board of directors. Additionally, Michael Brown, a director since 1996, said he plans to retire from the board at Pfizer's annual shareholder meeting in April.

Tessier-Lavigne is the president of the Rockefeller University and a former executive with biotech drugmaker Genentech, now part of Roche. Hobbs is a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Pfizer, which makes the impotence pill Viagra and vaccine Prevnar 13, said it would raise its quarterly dividend by 2 cents to 22 cents per share starting early next year. The dividend will be payable March 6 to shareholders of record at the close of business Feb. 3.

The company's board of directors also authorized a new share repurchase program for up to $10 billion. The company expects to buy back about $5 billion in common stock next year. It has said it plans to spend between $7 billion and $9 billion on stock buybacks this year.

Shares of Pfizer Inc. fell 17 cents to close at $20.39. Since the start of the year, the stock has rallied by more than 16 percent, outperforming the benchmark S&P 500 which is down nearly 2 percent.