Pfizer CEO says race to succeed him creating tension |

Pfizer CEO says race to succeed him creating tension

PHILADELPHIA – The internal race to succeed Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Henry McKinnell has created “some tension,” he said, but investors should be reassured that the drug giant has three or four strong internal candidates for the top spot.Last year, New York-based Pfizer promoted three executives to vice chairmen and named them to an executive committee with McKinnell. At the time, industry watchers believed Pfizer’s board would eventually choose from among the three to succeed McKinnell upon his expected retirement in 2008. McKinnell, 62 years old, has been chairman and CEO since 2001.Speaking at a Morgan Stanley pharmaceutical conference in New York Wednesday, McKinnell said there are “three, maybe four, people who could be CEOs of Pfizer or any other pharmaceutical company, so we certainly have the capabilities inside Pfizer…”He didn’t identify candidates by name or indicate who the fourth person might be, beyond the three vice chairmen.The executives promoted to vice chairman last year are Karen Katen, David Shedlarz and Jeff Kindler. A Pfizer spokesman declined to comment.McKinnell had been asked at the Morgan Stanley conference why Pfizer created a “horse race” to succeed him, and hadn’t named a successor yet.”We have a process that’s fully transparent, fully understood by the board and the candidates for succession, one that is working very well,” McKinnell said. But he added, “Yeah, creating some tension, that’s probably a fair comment” to make about the process.McKinnell said it was too soon to settle on a successor because Pfizer doesn’t yet know what strengths it will need in a CEO in two years. The decision will depend upon “how our products do, it depends on how our marketplace evolves.”Pfizer has recently faced a slowdown in prescription growth for key drugs, including those treating cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. In October, the company reduced its earnings forecast for 2005 and withdrew its projections for 2006 and 2007, saying it wasn’t clear whether the slowdown was temporary.Vail, Colorado

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