May 1, 2019 / 10:49 AM / 20 days ago

Allergan CEO Saunders wins vote to keep chairman role

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Allergan Plc shareholders have voted down a proposal to order the immediate split of the roles of chairman and chief executive, with 61.3 percent of shareholders backing Chairman and CEO Brent Saunders.

Brent Saunders, chief executive officer of drug maker Allergan Inc, poses for a photo after an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Caroline Humer/Files

Billionaire investor David Tepper’s hedge fund Appaloosa LP made the proposal, arguing that Allergan currently has a questionable business strategy and excessive pay for executives.

Proxy advisory firms backed keeping the current structure. However, Appaloosa’s success in attracting the votes of a substantial minority highlights the displeasure of many investors.

The voting results represent 85.9 percent of shares eligible to vote, Allergan said in a statement on Wednesday.

Allergan, under pressure to rescue the company’s falling stock price, launched a review of its strategy last year. But that review is only likely to result in the sale of its relatively small infectious disease unit.

Appaloosa has voiced its discontent with the results of the review, and has called for a breakup or sale of the company, citing recent clinical failures such as that of its depression treatment rapastinel.

In an effort to fend off Appaloosa, Allergan agreed in March to split the chairman and CEO roles, but only at its next leadership change. Saunders, 49, has no plans to step down, a source close to the company told Reuters then.

Saunders put together the current version of Allergan through a series of deals to roll up several pharmaceutical companies in 2014, and has run the company since then.

He built his reputation as a dealmaker, but he has struggled since Pfizer Inc walked away from a $160 billion deal to buy Allergan in 2016. Allergan’s shares have lost nearly half their value since then.

Reuters on Tuesday had reported that enough votes had been cast for Allergan to prevail against Appaloosa.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New York and Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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