Teva Pharmaceutical chief executive resigns

Shares in Tel Aviv fell 6.2 per cent after announcement made

Former Teva chief executive Jeremy Levin. Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world's largest generic drugmaker, said its chief executive Jeremy Levin was stepping down and finance chief Eyal Desheh would stand in on an interim basis, effective immediately.

Earlier this week, Teva and Mr Levin denied an Israeli media report that Mr Levin was considering resigning due to a rift with the company’s board of directors over Teva’s strategy.

Mr Levin took the helm of Israel-based Teva in May 2012, promising to reshape the company by developing its own medicines amid increasing competition in the generics market, and to divest businesses in non-core areas.

Earlier this month, Teva said it would cut 5,000 jobs - 10 per cent of its workforce - accelerating a cost-cutting plan as it prepares for lower-priced competition to its best-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.


“We have had different views on the best way to carry out the strategy,” chairman Phillip Frost told a conference call with analysts today without providing details.

After being halted following the announcement, Teva shares in Tel Aviv fell 6.2 per c ent to 135.9 shekels. Its shares in New York were down $2.40 to $38.62 in early trade.

Mr Levin joined Teva from Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was vice president for strategy, alliances and transactions. At Bristol-Myers, Mr Levin implemented a “string of pearls” strategy of alliances, partnerships and acquisitions with small and large companies.

Teva’s board has formed a committee to search for a permanent successor for Mr Levin. Mr Frost said he believes the new chief executive must be willing to be mostly in Israel and that while the successful candidate could come from any background, experience in the drugs industry would be helpful.

“The board and management team are fully committed to the implementation of Teva’s strategy, including the development of new compounds, making strategic acquisitions, forming joint ventures and the planned acceleration of the company’s cost reduction programme,” Mr Frost said.

Local television had quoted unnamed sources this week as saying part of the problem between MrLevin and Mr Frost stemmed from conflicting ideas of laying off workers in Israel. Under the plan, hundreds of Israeli employees were set to lose their jobs, but under pressure from the government and union Mr Levin agreed to coordinate any reductions with the union and state.

Mr Levin had built his team by recruiting many outside executives to the company. Mr Frost said the board had “every indication” the new hires would remain.

Mr Frost also said Teva was not seeking to be bought when asked whether the company might be an acquisition target.

Teva will report its third-quarter results tomorrow.