Dendreon, Resisting Urge to Sell, Eyes Opportunity to Be Seattle’s Next Immunex
Dendreon CEO Mitch Gold envisions his company becoming the next anchor tenant for the biotechnology industry in Seattle—the first big success story since Immunex in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
For those in need of a refresher, Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) has been riding a wave of enthusiasm the past couple months, since a clinical trial showed its first-of-a-kind immune-boosting treatment for prostate cancer helped men live longer with minimal side effects. This company with a controversial history, has suddenly produced a 10-fold return for shareholders who bought shares as recently as February, has raised $221 million in fresh capital, and is working feverishly to get its first product on the market by early 2010.
This, as you might imagine, created the happiest vibe I’ve felt in years of attending Dendreon annual meetings. About 100 people showed up this morning at the event today at company headquarters in Seattle. Shareholders I talked to at the meeting were all smiles. Gloria Johnson, of Cincinnati, OH and Ft. Myers, FL, a retired psychiatric nurse, told me her happy story of how she and her husband Ron bought 20,000 shares at $4.21 apiece earlier this year before the positive Provenge data sent the stock soaring. “It’s been life-changing,” she says.
Like Johnson, many of these shareholders flew in from around the country to ask probing questions of Gold after the formalities were completed. He answered them all, plus a few afterwards from me. The burning question was whether Gold is looking to sell Dendreon to a large pharmaceutical company—the kind of deal that would generate even bigger windfall returns for shareholders. He said all the right things you’d expect a CEO to say, about how he’s not building the company to sell it (which could just be posturing to help him drive a harder bargain with an aggressive suitor). Then he added the usual caveat that if someone made him a serious offer, the board has a fiduciary responsibility to consider it (which could help him avoid being sued by ticked off shareholders if something goes wrong.)
I’ve known Gold since 2002, shortly after he joined the company and was named CEO. At 42, he’s still the young, super-confident dealmaker I remember, just with more polish and a few more battle scars. If Hollywood made this company’s saga into a movie, it would have to cast Tom Cruise … Next Page »