JERSEY CITY, N.J., Feb. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Board of Directors of Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR) (the "Company" or "Optimer") today announced the appointment of its Chairman, Dr. Henry McKinnell, as Chief Executive Officer. Dr. McKinnell was associated with Pfizer Inc., from 1971 until his retirement in 2007, including serving as Pfizer's Chief Executive Officer and Chairman from 2001 to 2006. The Board of Directors also appointed Mark Auerbach, who has served as an Optimer Director since June 2005, as Lead Independent Director.
The Board also announced that it has commenced a process to explore a full range of strategic alternatives. In connection with this process, the Company has engaged J.P. Morgan and Centerview Partners as its financial advisers and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP as its legal adviser. The Board cautioned that there can be no assurance that the strategic review will result in any action and that there would be no further comment on the process until the review is completed.
Dr. McKinnell will replace Pedro Lichtinger, who has served as Optimer's President and Chief Executive Officer since May 2010, for the duration of the strategic review process. Mr. Lichtinger agreed to step down as President, Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, in connection with the announced change in management. Kurt Hartman also agreed to step down and Meredith Schaum has been appointed to replace him as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of the Company. The Independent Directors recommended to the Board that management changes were appropriate following their review of prior compliance, record keeping and conflict-of-interest issues observed during the review, including issues arising from the conduct of Optimer personnel who were the subject of the changes in management and leadership announced in April 2012. The previously disclosed investigations of these issues by the relevant U.S. authorities are ongoing and the Company continues to cooperate with those authorities.Dr. McKinnell stated, "While the Board is conducting a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value, I look forward to working with the management team to continue to increase the utilization of DIFICID®."