Gilead Sciences' (GILD) Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations Kevin Young -- the company's top drug salesman -- announced his retirement on Monday night.
Young will leave Gilead on Feb. 4 after 10 years at the company in which he oversaw the launch of eight therapies. One of those products -- the fixed-dose, single-pill combination of HIV medicines Viread and Emtriva known as Truvada -- transformed Gilead into the highly successful, big-cap biopharmaceutical firm it is today.
Gilead annual revenue grew from $1.24 billion in 2004 to nearly $10 billion in 2012.
While Young deserves his huzzahs, his retirement is a surprise and comes at an awkward time for Gilead. Investors have incredibly high expectations for the recently approved hepatitis C pill Sovaldi, which is supposed to essentially rid the world of the liver disease and generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the company.
Obviously, Young is not a one-man sales team and his people have had ample time to prepare for Sovaldi's launch. Still, dont be surprised if Wall Street worries a little about the timing of Youngs retirement at least until Gilead puts up big Sovaldi sales numbers.
J.P. Morgan analyst Geoff Meacham addressed the Young retirement issue and assuaged clients in a note Monday night.
The timing of the departure is somewhat of a surprise to us, given the recent approval/launch of Sovaldi in Hep C, in what is likely to be a treatment-paradigm-shifting launch over the next several years. That said, our sense is that the team working on the Sovaldi commercialization has largely been intact for 2+ years, which should help smooth the initial stages of launch. Additionally, we would be not surprised if Gilead promoted someone from the team internally to fill the role, rather than look externally, given the working knowledge base required for both the HIV and Hep C businesses and the fact that Kevin has had a "large team," with some people working together with him for over a decade.