Perrigo Taps Tobacco Executive as CEO in Shift From Drugs

(Bloomberg) -- Perrigo Co. said Murray Kessler, a former tobacco industry executive, will become the company’s third chief executive officer this year as it transitions away from prescription drugs toward over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and other health products.

Kessler, 59, is the former CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Co. He replaces Uwe Roehrhoff, who was appointed president and CEO in January to replace John Hendrickson.

Perrigo has been trying to turn itself around after a 16 percent decline in the shares in the past 12 months. It’s in the process of separating its prescription drugs business and refocusing on consumer health products such as an over-the-counter version of heartburn drug Nexium. The separation will be completed by year-end, and options include a sale or merger.

Tim Chiang, an analyst at BTIG LLC, who rates the shares neutral, said another management change this soon wasn’t expected but might be what the company needs to turn itself around.

“It’s been sort of musical chairs at the CEO level,” Chiang said. “With Perrigo, you’re either laughing or you’re crying if you’re an investor. Perrigo hasn’t had a focus or direction for a while.”

The shares were little changed after the market closed in New York.

Perrigo, which is run from Allegan, Michigan, but has a legal address in Dublin, has made a number of moves since 2016, when Starboard Value LP disclosed a stake and started agitating for changes. Starboard, run by investor Jeff Smith, has a history of spurring changes at target companies.

Starboard didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perrigo’s management team has restructured operations and also sold its royalty rights on the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri for as much as $2.85 billion, acceding to the fund’s demands.

The company declined to comment beyond a statement announcing the appointment Monday.

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