Amylin Founder Ted Greene, In Exclusive Interview, Upbeat About Outcome of Proxy Battle

6/2/09Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals has witnessed an extraordinary struggle for control of its board of directors in which a key turning point came when founding CEO Howard “Ted” Greene publicly switched sides and urged shareholders to vote for the dissidents’ nominees.

So what does Greene have to say about the results of the shareholder vote that Luke reported this morning? I caught up with Greene this afternoon by telephone in northern Michigan, where he’s on vacation. He says the changes give the San Diego diabetes drug developer a fresh opportunity.

Greene sounds generally upbeat about the results, in which four new directors are joining Amylin’s 12-member board—two dissident nominees, and two new company nominees. From the dissidents’ camp, shareholders elected Alex Denner, a fund manager for billionaire investor Carl Icahn, and Kathleen Behrens, a consultant nominated by Eastbourne Capital Management. From the company’s own slate of candidates, shareholders elected two new independent directors, former Icos chairman and CEO Paul N. Clark and former Novartis CEO Paulo F. Costa.

“One-third of the board has turned over,” Greene says. “So the new board is going to take a hard look at the company’s performance and the way they do some of the marketing and sales.”

One of the extraordinary aspects to the outcome of the board election is not merely that the dissident faction gained two board seats in the May 27 shareholder vote. It’s that they dethroned the two most prominent incumbents—Amylin chairman Joseph Cook and lead independent director James Wilson—in an election that was a pure popularity contest. The 12 nominees elected to Amylin’s board are the ones who received the most shareholder votes. Cook and Wilson, who were the public faces of the company’s defensive reaction to the shareholder activists, were the ones who became least popular in the end.

Icahn and Eastbourne, which together hold about a 22.5 percent stake in Amylin, were targeting Cook and Wilson in their call for a board shakeup and improved performance at Amylin. But Greene, who is Amylin’s biggest individual shareholder and a leading figure in San Diego’s biotech community, clearly helped tip the balance.

When Greene was asked to resign from Amylin’s board in April, he groused in an open letter filed with the SEC that “the obvious and appropriate choice to not … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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