The new chairman of Vancouver biotech company QLT Inc. – who took over after a board coup this week – says he wants to keep senior management in place, but refocus the company on the products that will drive the greatest financial returns.
Jason Aryeh, who heads a Connecticut hedge fund that focuses on health and biotech companies, was named chairman on Monday when a new slate of directors displaced most of those already in place. The proxy fight was prompted by QLT's second-largest shareholder, NB Public Equity KS, a Copenhagen-based fund that invests in health care.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Aryeh said he is “not predisposed to replacing any” of the top managers at QLT, and “I hope that [CEO] Bob Butchofsky is willing to stay.” However, he noted that the final decision rests with the board as a whole.
QLT, which specializes in treatments for eye disorders, hit a rough patch about four years ago and it was forced to sell off some of its assets and real estate. Its key remaining programs now include Visudyne, a treatment for wet macular degeneration that it has been selling for more than a decade, along with a new product it is developing for retinal diseases, and an alternative method for depositing glaucoma medication into the eye.
Mr. Aryeh said he and NB feel the glaucoma drug delivery program is currently being overemphasized, and that QLT should focus more of its resources on the retinal treatment, which is the company's “crown jewel” and looks like it will generate the best returns in the mid to long term.
As for a return on capital to shareholders – which the company proposed before the board revamp – Mr. Aryeh said he is not generally in favour of that kind of move, but the board will review the idea.