Thursday, September 30, 2010

Friday Alum Roundup: Berkowitz In At Wags | Sabatino Out At United Airlines -- And, On Merger's Eve?

This is a bizarre coupling -- both ex-Schering-Plough guys, both landing at Illinois-based companies, both not sticking around very long at New Merck. . . but tonight's story involving the now ex-UAL, ex-SGP, ex-BAX GC is puzzling indeed -- per this evening's Chicago Tribune:

. . . .The merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines is scheduled to become official on Friday, and there is an unexpected hole in the senior management team.

Tom Sabatino, who was supposed to be the top lawyer inside the combined United-Continental airlines, has resigned, the Tribune has confirmed. . . .

Sabatino was a surprise pick considering that he had only been with United since March, less than two months before the merger was announced. . . .

A source familiar with both airlines said Glenn Tilton, United’s CEO who will become nonexecutive chairman of the combined airline, had lobbied hard to place Sabatino on the new management team, which is split between United and Continental executives.

Sabatino, 51, came to United from drug maker Schering-Plough, where he had been general counsel until November 2009, when Merck bought the company. . . .

Meanwhile, earlier today, Bloomberg had the Berkowitz announcement, thus:
. . . .Walgreen Co. said Thursday it has hired former Schering-Plough executive Jeffrey Berkowitz to take charge of its pharmacy contracting strategy.

The company said Berkowitz will be senior vice president of pharmaceutical development and market access. His responsibilities will include forming strategic relationships with other companies, and overseeing growth initiatives with drugmakers.

Berkowitz held a series of marketing and sales-related positions with Schering-Plough Corp. from 2002 until 2009, when the company was acquired by Merck & Co. He later became Merck's senior vice president of global market access. . . .

This is some good news, for Wags -- and some odd news, for United. It would certainly make more sense to have a veteran airline lawyer in the newly combined carrier's GC seat -- but that was true the day Sabatino was named. Strange.

Maybe Jeff Smisek had to wait until "New UAL" NYSE trading begins (tomorrow morning), to be able to overrule Tilton's pick. Who knows?


Anonymous said...

One has to wonder...

Were any sentient (preferably) human beings with knowledge of M&A, pharma, multinational corporation law, GAAP, and the like taking care of this deal, or were those people so busy jet-setting and taking power breakfasts in exotic locales that they turned the whole merger over to the local kindergarten class for a few iPods and a fistful of iTunes gift cards?

Sheesh. The folks that engineered this mess make Sarah Palin look like Einstein, and Mayor Daley's 6-term reign of thievery look like he stole a Tootsie Pop right out of a kid's mouth.

WAG seems to have changed a bit. Used to be people would hang around there for years, waiting for someone to die so they might be able to get a promotion. Hope Berkowitz doesn't die of boredom over there. Takeda's HQ is nearby, but they're laying people off (not that many AFAIK). Abbott is a bit farther north, haven't heard much about anything going on over there.

Condor said...

UPDATED -- Bloomberg reports tonight that Brett Hart, currently the EVP & General Counsel at Chicago-area-based Sara Lee Corp., will take the United Continental EVP & GC seat Mr. Sabatino vacated, mysteriously and abruptly, on October 1, 2010 -- United Merger Day 1.

Another paper has it that ". . .Hart replaces Thomas Sabatino Jr., who announced his plans to parachute out of the position on the same day that the Oct. 1 merger was finalized. Sabatino had been selected to head the merged airlines' legal department, but a spokesperson told at the time that he'd simply opted not to move forward with the company. . . ."

Wild -- a pharma guy, then a food guy -- at a union dominated airline.