Dr. Phillip Frost
Dr. Phillip Frost has an enviable track record in the building and selling of bio businesses. An early success came in 1986 when, 14 years after taking over then-nearly-bankrupt Key Pharmaceuticals with Michael Jaharis, he sold the company to Schering-Plough. In his role as chairman, Frost helped build Key into a consistently profitable company with sales north of $150 million a year. Frost is thought to have earned around $150 million from selling his stake.
The sale gave Frost the funds to found what was to become the company that defined him as a builder of biopharma businesses, Ivax. Founded in 1987, Ivax made a series of acquisitions in its early years and became a major player in the sale of generic pharmaceuticals. Ivax was ahead of the curve on the rise of emerging markets and built strong positions in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. This robust global footprint attracted the attention of buyers, and in 2006 Israeli generics giant Teva ($TEVA) bought Ivax for $7.4 billion. Again, Frost took home a sizable return on his initial investment.
While building Ivax from his position as chairman, Frost found the time to found North American Vaccine, by combining the assets of two existing companies, and then sell the firm to Baxter ($BAX). Yet again, Frost made a tidy profit from the $390 million in cash, stock and debt Baxter coughed up for the vaccinemaker. A more recent success story is Protalix Biotherapeutics: Frost was among the first investors in the company, but largely cashed out in 2011. Now, the rare disease model pursued by Protalix has seen it partner with Pfizer ($PFE) and generate talk of a $1 billion takeover.
It is possible Frost could have increased returns on Protalix by holding onto his shares for a few more years, but even so he has grown his net worth to $2.6 billion, according to Forbes. These repeated successes mean that now when Frost backs a company people take notice. And Frost gives them plenty of firms to track. The biggest play is Opko Health, which, in a move mirroring the formation of other Frost companies, was created in a roll-up of several firms. As with Ivax, Frost then took a managerial role and began buying and licensing assets, particularly after the failure of a key ophthalmology trial in 2009.
Frost is also chairman of Teva, having joined the firm in the takeover of Ivax, and has a stake in a handful of other companies in bio and beyond. Among these is Prolor Biotech, where Frost has a large shareholding and serves as chairman.
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- Nick Taylor