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Genzyme CEO Defends Tenure as Icahn Lurks

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- Embattled Genzyme (GENZ) CEO Henri Termeer told a packed room of investors Tuesday that he accepted responsibility for the manufacturing problems that have crippled the biotech firm this year. But he also insisted that he's the best man to lead the company's recovery.

"I accept with great humility that these manufacturing interruptions have happened under my watch," said Termeer, in response to my question about why he should remain the company's chief executive.

Henri Termeer
Genzyme's CEO Henri Termeer
Termeer spent a good bit of his 30-minute breakout session at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference outlining the steps Genzyme is taking to recover from a year's worth of manufacturing problems that caused drug shortages, a drop in earnings and a plunging stock price.

But investors I spoke with remain unconvinced that Termeer can get the job done, which may be why Genzyme's stock price seems to move higher only when the talk turns to speculation about proxy fights and management housecleaning.

Towards that end, one investor in the breakout session asked Termeer if Genzyme has had any contact with billionaire hedge fund manager and activist shareholder Carl Icahn.

"We've had no discussions with Mr. Icahn," replied Termeer. "No contact."

Icahn owns 1.5 million Genzyme shares as of the third quarter and speculation is building that he's buying more stock to prepare for a proxy fight.

Alex Denner, Icahn's biotech lieutenant, was spotted in the room during Termeer's talk but had nothing to say publicly. (More than a few people turned to glance at Denner after Termeer responded to the Icahn question, as if expecting him to stand up and counterpunch.)

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