Arcturus’ ex-CEO triumphs, ousting board that ousted him

Joe Payne

The curtain is falling on the epic drama between little San Diego biotech Arcturus and its former CEO Joe Payne. After months of harpooning each other with lawsuits in a war for control, Payne has prevailed.

At least that’s what we’re reading from a statement Arcturus published today, which announced that four board members are resigning: Stuart Collinson, Craig Willett, Daniel Geffken, and David Shapiro. This was the action Payne has been rooting for, as these four directors, he alleged, conspired against him — resulting in the firing of Payne this February. In particular, Payne said these guys engaged in activity that violated the rules established by the Israeli laws that govern its operations.

For some background, Payne was fired from the RNA medicines company for allegedly putting his own interests before Arcturus’. Payne rejected that assertion, and responded with demands for the company to hold an extraordinary general meeting to vote on an ouster of his own design. He wanted to trade out the four adversaries on the board with new faces: Magda Marquet, Peter Farrell, Andrew Sassine, and James Barlow.

According to Arcturus’ new statement, the company has voted in favor of Payne’s plans, forcing the old players out. The company’s stock is up nearly 14% on the news, trading at $6.93 per share as of press time.

Drama aside, Payne’s pick for the board include some of the biggest names in San Diego biotech. Marquet, founder and co-chair of Althea Technologies, is a well-known industry executive who’s been leading San Diego’s biotech community for a couple of decades. And Farrell is the founder and former long-term CEO and current chairman of ResMed, one of the largest medical device companies in San Diego.

It’s unclear what will happen now with Payne. Will he rejoin Arcturus after the new board settles in? We reached out to Payne, and will update you when we hear back.

The drawn out fight took a nasty turn when Arcturus launched a series of lawsuits against Payne, seeking damages and injunctive relief and detailing Payne’s multiple alleged misconducts. Those included operating a “lucrative side business during business hours” and attempting to transfer Arcturus’ IP for no apparent reason during his tenure, in addition to orchestrating a move to block Arcturus’ routine auditing activity.

But now, those lawsuits should be dropped. According to Arcturus’ statement, the settlement agreement included “mutual releases of all parties and the agreement by the company and Joseph E. Payne to terminate all pending litigation.”

Hopefully the next news we hear from Arcturus will be about the company’s science.

“We are pleased to have come together to reach this very positive outcome that allows Arcturus to move forward, focused on creating substantial value for all shareholders,” Payne said. “We warmly appreciate the continued support from our shareholders, and the encouragement to reach an amicable resolution through this agreement. The company has accomplished a great deal in the last five years, and I’m confident that with the strong leadership of the board and management team, the best days are ahead for Arcturus.”

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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