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By Michael Flaherty
March 13 Sarissa Capital Management LP said on
Monday it plans to nominate three directors to Innoviva Inc's
board and criticized the drug company's cost structure
as the two sides square off in a proxy contest.
Innoviva said last week that Sarissa Capital had nominated
four candidates to replace a majority of the drug company's
directors. Sarissa, founded by Carl Icahn protege Alex Denner,
said on Monday that Innoviva's press release was "preemptive"
and that it does not seek control of the company's seven-member
Sarissa owns 2.72 percent of Innoviva, according to Thomson
Innoviva, which had 14 employees as of Dec. 31, according to
its annual report, is a $1.4 billion company with a partnership
with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline Plc. The companies
submitted an application in November to market their new
three-in-one inhaled lung drug for U.S. approval.
Sarissa said on Monday that Innoviva overpays its officers
and directors because it only manages drug royalties and does
not market or sell any products.
"We expect our nominees, if elected, will work to instill in
Innoviva much needed financial discipline and oversight,"
The hedge fund's nominees are George Bickerstaff, an
investment banker and former chief financial officer for
Novartis Pharma AG; Jules Haimovitz, a consultant and former
director at Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc; and Odysseas Kostas, a
Sarissa analyst and a director at Enzon Pharmaceuticals.
(Additional reporting by Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by
Savio D'Souza and Paul Simao)