Stahel joins Norwood as new drug firm eyes AIM float
Saturday 22 May 2004
Rolf Stahel, the drug company executive who was forced out from Shire Pharmaceuticals in 2002, has re-emerged as the chairman of a new drugs group which plans to list on the junior AIM market in the next few weeks.
He is taking a non-executive post at Norwood Immunology, a spin-out from an Australian company called Norwood Abbey, which promises a treatment to "reboot" the body's immune system and help fight cancer.
Norwood Immunology plans to raise up to £15m in new money, valuing the company at up to £100m. It is about to start the final stage of human trials for its product, which it says can stimulate the thymus, a gland below the neck that produces white blood cells used by the body to fight disease.
Mr Stahel, 60, said: "I had been looking for a company I could build over five years, because of my age, but I hadn't found one that was clean enough, and I certainly didn't want to come out big and flop with it. I am cutting the timeframe short with Norwood, because of the quality and simplicity of the science, which uses an existing product for a new indication. We are expecting the product should first launch in 2006."
Mr Stahel has been linked with a string of public and private companies since his departure from Shire, but several negotiations - including over the chief executive job at the FTSE 250 vaccines group Acambis - are believed to have broken down over the terms of any remuneration or incentive package.
At Norwood, Mr Stahel is being paid a salary of $100,000 (£56,000) but will be heavily incentivised against the share price. He is being granted 5 million share options, exercisable at the flotation price, and will receive a further 1 million options, also exercisable at the float price, if the shares rise 150 per cent.
Mr Stahel is a former marketing executive at Wellcome. But his reputation in the industry is based on his decade at the helm of Shire, which he turned from a private company with annual revenues of less than £2m to a FTSE 100 stalwart worth £2.4bn - only to be ousted after a boardroom row over strategy.
He walked away from Shire with a £5.9m pay-off, which included a £4.3m pension fund top-up which prompted a substantial shareholder revolt at last year's annual meeting.
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