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Arena Pharmaceuticals’ Board Asks CEO Jack Lief to Retire

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) said that Jack Lief, who has served as Arena’s president and CEO since 1997, has retired from the company and left Arena’s board of directors—effective today—at the request of the company’s board.

Lief co-founded Arena 18 years ago with Dominic Behan, a scientist now serving as Arena’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, and together oversaw the successfully development of lorcaserin (Belviq) as a weight-loss drug for obese individuals.

Lief (who was 69 in March) also has served as Arena’s chief financial officer since July, when Robert Hoffman left Arena for an unnamed biopharmaceutical after serving as the company’s CFO for the past 18 years.

former Arena Pharmaceuticals CEO Jack Lief (credit: Arena Pharmaceuticals)

Jack Lief

Harry Hixson, who joined Arena’s board in 2004, was named as interim CEO and interim principal financial officer. The company has initiated a search for a new chief executive officer, according to the statement.

In a regulatory filing, Arena disclosed that Lief would receive a cash severance payment of about $1.8 million, continuation of Arena’s health insurance coverage for 18 months, and an acceleration of his stock options and restricted, performance-based stock that would have vested over the next 18 months.

Hixon, 77, served as the board chairman at San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) from 2003 to March 2015, and was the CEO of San Diego-based Sequenom from 2009 to June 2014. He previously served as the CEO at BrainCells and Elitra Pharmaceuticals, and held various management positions at Amgen.