Two top executives of
have left in recent months -- but you would need to be a detective to figure it out.
Dr. Carolyn Paradise, executive vice president and chief medical officer, resigned from Cell Therapeutics last August. Michael Mumford, executive vice president of manufacturing operations, departed in March.
Both Paradise and Mumford were executive officers of Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics, which means their status and salary were high enough to be listed in the company's annual reports and proxy statements filed with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
Yet the company chose not to issue press releases informing investors about the departures of the two -- a disclosure strategy that is raising some eyebrows. Instead, Cell Therapeutics simply omitted their names, with no explanation, from the list of executive officers included with the 2002 10-K, filed on March 27. Both were listed in the 10-K and proxy statement for 2001.
Cell Therapeutics' CEO Jim Bianco confirms that both executives are no longer employed with the company, but says separate disclosure through press releases was not necessary in either case because there was no material impact on the company's operations.
Quynh Pham, a biotech analyst at Delafield Hambrecht, a small Seattle-based investment firm, disagrees with Bianco. "To me, the departure of an executive officer of a company -- for whatever reason -- is a material event and should be disclosed," she says. Pham rates Cell Therapeutics a buy and her firm has no banking relationship with the company.
In Paradise's case, Bianco says several other people with more experience running clinical trials were hired to manage the company's efforts to develop Xyotax, a reformulation of the cancer drug Taxol that is currently in multiple phase III studies. Paradise worked for Cell Therapeutics, in various roles, since November 1997.
Paradise left Seattle and moved to New York, where she is currently the chief medical officer for Aton Pharma, a private biotech firm. She was not available for comment.
Regarding Mumford, Bianco says his role became somewhat obsolete after Cell Therapeutics nailed down relationships with third-party manufacturers who actually make Xyotax and Trisenox, another niche cancer drug that the company currently markets.
"Since we rely solely on third-party manufacturers, once you get the processes worked out, there isn't much left to do for an
executive vice president of manufacturing operations," says Bianco, adding that lower-level hires were brought on to maintain these relationships.
Mumford began working for Cell Therapeutics in August 2001. Prior to that, he spent 14 years in various positions at Immunex Corp., another Seattle-based biotech firm that was acquired last year by
. Bianco says Mumford left to pursue philanthropic ventures a few weeks ago. He could not be reached.
A source familiar with Paradise and Mumford says their departures were not so benign. Both executives left the company because they disagreed with its strategic direction and were not happy with Bianco's leadership, the source says.
Matt Geller, biotech analyst at CIBC World Markets, says the departures of Paradise and Mumford don't matter. "To me, what's important about Cell Therapeutics is the progress they are making with their drugs and whether the company is moving in the right direction. I think they are. There have always been a lot of personality issues surrounding this stock, but I simply focus on the science." Geller rates Cell Therapeutics outperform and his firm has a banking relationship with the company.
Lehman Brothers analyst Jim Birchenough believes Cell Therapeutics is a better-run company with the new employees brought in, especially those on the clinical side. But, he acknowledges, "It would have been better for
Cell Therapeutics to be as open and public as possible about the upgrade of personnel." He rates Cell Therapeutics overweight and his firm doesn't do banking for the company.
Cell Therapeutics shares closed down 3% at $8.59 on Thursday.
Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for RealMoney.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send