Actelion shareholders hand Elliott-backed insurgents a defeat

Elliott Advisors' dramatic effort to rally investors behind a push to put Actelion up for sale ran into a brick wall today as shareholders backed management's slate of candidates for the board. A rival slate of candidates led by ex-Novartis exec James Shannon was defeated, and Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel vowed to get back to the biotech's primary task: advancing new drugs through the clinic.

"So much energy was spent for this fight, which should have better gone into the development of new drugs," Clozel said, according to a report from Dow Jones. Of course, it was trouble in the clinic that inspired Elliott's effort to force a sale of the company in the first place. Last year Actelion experienced a stinging setback with the failure of its experimental sleeping pill almorexant. That was followed by further setbacks on the development front and yesterday the Swiss biotech was hit with a hefty verdict in a case revolving around its acquisition of CoTherix.

But Reuters reports that the pro-management sentiment at the annual meeting was clear early as as shareholders booed remarks made by Elliott's Dominik Dolenec.

Actelion is left with a much stronger board, though. In its struggle with Elliott the company recruited former GlaxoSmithKline CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier and former Schering-Plough CFO Robert Bertolini for its slate of candidates. They will now be on hand to help advise Actelion as it navigates troubled waters.

- read the Dow Jones report
- and here's the Reuters story