Amarin CEO John Thero passes baton to Europe commercial chief as M&A hopes continue to deflate
As Amarin breaks into the European market, John Thero is heading out.
After steering the ship for 7 years, Thero is handing the CEO job to Karim Mikhail, who came on board earlier this year to head the commercialization of Amarin’s fish oil pill in Europe. Mikhail’s appointment is effective Aug. 1, when Thero will officially retire and transition to an advisor role until the end of 2021.
Since joining Amarin in 2009, Thero has been credited for a slate of achievements that gave investors lots to be excited about. Under his watch, Vascepa — the pharmaceutical grade omega-3 fatty acid product first approved in 2012 — was cruised to a positive Phase III data readout despite some controversy, spurring an impressive reduction in risk of cardiovascular events that led to a quick FDA add-on approval.
The one thing he is leaving without is a multibillion-dollar buyout — and, with the doors apparently closed to a patent extension, the hopes are dimming by the day.
All of that signals a “tough road ahead,” according to Jefferies analyst Michael Yee, who’s been a big cheerleader for Thero:
Thus, investors may be disappointed in the transition and that it may signal no near term M&A on the table (which is the clear and primary bull case to the stock). That said – one might argue perhaps a change means new mgmt may position AMRN in a way to be easier to sell via M&A and/or that this opens the co up to more options, but we don’t think that is likely and the most logical scenario is AMRN will go forward with a Q3 EU launch which will take time.
In a statement, Amarin praised Mikhail’s credentials in launching new drugs — topped by a stint as global commercial leader for Merck’s $4 billion lipid franchise. In that role, the company highlighted, “he was responsible for reversing the business’ decline in the US market and globally, accelerating revenue by an additional $380 million through the launch of ATOZET and driving EBITDA growth through international expansion.”
Amarin will need it. Yee expects the US sales for Q1 to come in just shy of consensus, even as its generic competitors at Hikma and Dr. Reddy’s are having issues with manufacturing and scaling up.
“(It) looks like Amarin should be okay in the near term and maintain 80-90% share, but uncertainty remains around eventual durability of US sales (i.e., what percent tail value is retained over 2-5+ years),” he wrote.
Freshly approved as Vazkepa in Europe just days ago, the drug is set for a near-term launch and should score another OK in China later this year, Mikhail added.