Former Biovail Corp. chief executive officer Bill Wells has quit as chairman of Valeant , less than three months after the two companies merged to become one of North America's biggest drug companies.
Mr. Wells, who ran Biovail leading up the merger but turned the reins over to Valeant CEO Michael Pearson when the deal closed at the end of September, is leaving "to pursue other interests," the company said Monday.
Reached in Barbados, where he was based as Biovail's CEO for tax reasons, Mr. Wells would not divulge why he decided to leave so quickly, citing confidentiality agreements. But he said he "has some entrepreneurial investments that I'm pursuing, and I'm going to keep my focus on those." They are private ventures in the software business, he added.
He said he hoped to remain in Barbados, which is "a very nice location."
Mr. Wells is being replaced as chairman by Robert Ingram, a former pharmaceutical executive who was once CEO of Glaxo Wellcome PLC.
Valeant spokeswoman Laurie Little would not give any more details about Mr. Wells' departure other than to say "he felt it was an appropriate time to step down," given that the company has a new management team and a new strategy in place.
While the contract with Mr. Wells said he had to give 60 days notice, that provision was waived to let him leave earlier, she said. Valeant still has five directors who came from Biovail's board.
Mr. Wells does not get any severance as a result of his resigning as chairman of Valeant, but he will receive a payout resulting from his role as chairman of one of the company's Barbados subsidiaries, Ms. Little said.
When Mr. Wells left his job as CEO of Biovail at the time of the merger, he received severance of more than $4-million in cash, and other benefits, according to a regulatory filing. Even though the merger was not legally deemed to be a change of control, the company agreed to make change-of-control payouts to several executives, including Mr. Wells.
Those payouts drew a blast from Biovail founder Eugene Melnyk, who said they were "excessive."
Robert Hazlett, an analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns who follows Valeant, said the consolidation of power in the hands of former Valeant executives and directors is an "expected progression," given that the merged company is following Valeant's strategy of reducing research and development, buying innovative products from others, and selling a diversified portfolio of drugs for dermatology, neurology and ophthalmology.
Mr. Hazlett said Mr. Wells' departure came quickly, but "he did a fine job putting the Biovail assets in the hands of those who are comfortable building out a global pharmaceuticals business. With that done, this transition and the timing are not unexpected. It's part of a transition that was initiated when the Valeant transaction was announced."
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