Teva to Tap Amir Elstein for New Chairman, Activist Shareholder Says

A spokesman for the pharmaceutical giant denies any decision was made.


REUTERS - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries board is to appoint vice-chairman Amir Elstein as its new chairman, activist shareholder Benny Landa said on Monday.

"I was informed ... by Moshe Many, Amir Elstein's predecessor as vice chairman, that the board has already decided that it will name Amir Elstein as the next chairman," Landa wrote in a blog.

A spokesman for Teva, the world's largest generic drugmaker, said there was no decision yet.

"No decision has been made regarding the identity of Teva's next chairman. A committee led by (board members) Prof. Moshe Many and Yossi Nitzani is currently engaged in a selection process," the spokesman said in a statement to Reuters.

If Elstein is chosen, he would replace Phillip Frost, Teva's largest individual shareholder with a 1.53 percent stake, who said last month he would step down as chairman by the end of this year.

Teva and other generic drugmakers have benefited from increased take-up of their products from cost-conscious governments and health insurers. But they face fierce competition and also the number of drugs coming off patent is dwindling.

Against this backdrop, Frost wanted to steer the company towards specialty pharmaceuticals, while other board members wanted to stick with its core generics business.

This boardroom clash led to the abrupt departure in October of CEO Jeremy Levin, who was replaced by turnaround specialist Erez Vigodman.

Landa, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the board, has said he believed it lacked global pharmaceutical experience and has called for its members to largely be replaced by individuals who do. He said in his blog that Vigodman needed the guidance and mentoring of a "pharma-seasoned" board.

In response to the possible chairman appointment, he said in his blog: "There appears to be no limit to this board's disregard for proper corporate governance and its disdain for shareholder views or interests."

Landa and Ruth Cheshin, a member of Teva's founding family, are leading a proxy fight against the board, expected to come to a head at Teva's general shareholders' meeting at the end of July.

Landa, who combined with Cheshin has a 0.3 percent stake in Teva, sold his digital printing company Indigo to Hewlett-Packard for $830 million in 2002.