Daniel O'Day, AP Images

A JP Mor­gan promise, a last-minute bid and the coro­n­avirus stock mar­ket — how Gilead’s Daniel O’Day nabbed Forty Sev­en

When Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day walked on stage at the JP Mor­gan Health­care Con­fer­ence, he had lots of de­tails but lit­tle con­crete to bring to what he ac­knowl­edged was “a bit of a com­ing-out par­ty.”

It was O’Day’s first JPM for the com­pa­ny. Af­ter 9 months of Gilead tri­al fail­ures and slug­gish sales, and with the promise of new man­age­ment, an­a­lysts talked about the “ur­gent” need for a buy­out. O’Day, though, couldn’t of­fer any­thing but cor­po­rate shoptalk about “strat­e­gy” and the rough out­lines of a plan: small to mid-size deals in core ar­eas of ex­per­tise.

“What’s on every­body’s mind is ‘what’s Gilead go­ing to buy? What’s the next gen­er­a­tion of M&A for Gilead?’” He said. “And I think that has to be in­formed by strat­e­gy. I’m not go­ing to tell you to­day what we are go­ing to buy, but I think that has to be in­formed by strat­e­gy.”

What O’Day couldn’t say was that he had al­ready start­ed mak­ing his first pur­chase. The week be­fore JPM, Gilead signed a con­fi­den­tial­i­ty agree­ment with Forty Sev­en, the can­cer biotech they would ul­ti­mate­ly buy this month for $4.9 bil­lion, their largest ac­qui­si­tion since they bought Kite Phar­ma for $11.9 bil­lion in 2017.

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