Immunomedics CEO Michael Pehl leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score determined
  • After about a year in the position
  • Thanks for Pehl
  • No successor named

(exechange) — Morris Plains, New Jersey, February 25, 2019 — Michael Pehl, chief executive of Immunomedics, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Immunomedics Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, February 25, 2019, Michael Pehl has left his post as Chief Executive Officer at the biopharmaceutical company, after about a year in the role, effective February 23, 2019.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months was 8.2 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 14 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within two years, and 24 percent left the position within three years.

Immunomedics did not name a replacement for the position of Chief Executive Officer.

“Personal reasons”

Michael Pehl’s sudden departure from the CEO post is explained as follows. Immunomedics said: “Michael Pehl has stepped down from the role of President, CEO and member of the Board, due to personal reasons.”

In the announcement, the company did not detail the personal reasons causing Pehl to leave the position, leaving room for speculation.

Precise information regarding Michael Pehl’s future plans was not immediately available.

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often an alarm signal for stockholders when a CEO leaves the post abruptly and without an understandable explanation.

“Resigned”

Immunomedics said: “On February 22, 2019, Michael Pehl, the Chief Executive Officer, President and member of the Board of Directors … of Immunomedics, Inc., … resigned from such capacities, effective February 23, 2019.”

“Not the result of any disagreement”

“Mr. Pehl’s resignation is not the result of any disagreement with the Company, the Board, or management, or any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices,” Immunomedics said.

It is a phrase that may be intended to prevent false rumors. It may also fuel further speculation and raise more questions than it answers. Such a phrase should be read very carefully. The exact wording may be insightful.

Share price decline

The announcement follows a decline in Immunomedics, Inc.’s share price of 44 percent since September 2018.

Chaired by Behzad Aghazadeh

Immunomedics, Inc. is chaired by Behzad Aghazadeh.

Behzad Aghazadeh is a Managing Partner and Portfolio Manager of the venBio Select Fund, the main equity investment vehicle of venBio Select Advisor LLC, a SEC registered investment manager. Aghazadeh has served as Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors since March 2017.

In the position of CEO since 2017

Michael F. Pehl has been President and Chief Executive Officer at Immunomedics, Inc. since December 7, 2017.

Michael F. Pehl has more than 20 years of experience in hematology and oncology and has launched multiple blockbuster drugs in that space including Revlimid, Pomalyst, and Abraxane.

Previously, Pehl spent 11 years at Celgene Corporation, serving as General Manager Germany, Vice President Central Europe, Head of Hematology Europe and subsequently as Head of Global Marketing and finally as President of Hematology & Oncology.

At the time of Michael Pehl’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Immunomedics, Behzad Aghazadeh, Chairman of the Board of Immunomedics, stated: “Today’s announcement represents the culmination of an intensely thorough –but ultimately extremely rewarding –search process for the right leader to guide the next phase in the transformation of Immunomedics. As we undertook this task, the Board and I were focused on finding a best-in-class talent with a proven ability to successfully navigate the approval and commercialization of ground-breaking drugs in the oncology space –which we are confident IMMU-132 and other products in our pipeline will be. While Michael’s track record in this area speaks for itself, it was his less tangible qualities that made it clear he was the right choice. As we did our diligence, we repeatedly heard Michael lauded for his strategic vision, operational expertise and confident execution ability. Perhaps most importantly, we time and again heard him singled out for his unique capacity to effectively and compassionately communicate across a spectrum of audiences including patients, KOLs, investors, regulators and fellow team members. This is the type of singular leader we were looking for and are thrilled to have found for Immunomedics.”

At the time of his appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Immunomedics, Michael Pehl stated: “This chance to lead Immunomedics represents a uniquely exciting point-in-time opportunity. Based on the public data on IMMU-132 and available information regarding the Company’s pipeline, I believe the antibody-drug conjugates of Immunomedics have a high likelihood of improving the lives of countless patients with significant unmet medical needs. Now more than ever, this is an absolute priority for me in my career.” Pehl continued, “I was also attracted to this role by the chance to help develop and instill a science based and patient centric culture of performance excellence at Immunomedics. The technology, science and talent the Company has at its disposal are world-class, and I am honored that Behzad and the Board have turned the reins over to me. While the U.S. and global approval and commercialization of IMMU-132 for metastatic triple negative breast cancer are a key goal for me and my team, we simultaneously will be focused on developing IMMU-132 in multiple solid tumor indications, thereby laying the foundation to transform Immunomedics into a recognized leader in the field of antibody-drug conjugates.”

Unplanned

As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no successor in place, it is a signal that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score determined

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange gauges the likelihood that a manager was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position.

exechange reached out to Immunomedics and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 9.2019 ($).