After months of mounting pressure amid lurid allegations, OrbiMed’s Isaly steps down

Exit sign
The news comes around four months after Isaly was said to be on his way out, amid allegations he's been dragging his feet. (Getty/John Spannos)

Sam Isaly has now finally left OrbiMed, the venture capital firm he founded, amid allegations of sexual impropriety. 

Not that casual observers would know that from OrbiMed’s rather short press release, which calls his departure “part of ongoing succession planning,” with no mention of why he is leaving or the allegations (something it has form in).

Its statement reads: “Samuel D. Isaly has transferred his controlling interest in OrbiMed and, as a result, is stepping down from his position as Managing Member of the firm. The terms of the transfer were not disclosed.”

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“The firm’s five other Partners, Sven H. Borho, Carl L. Gordon, Jonathan T. Silverstein, W. Carter Neild and Geoffrey C. Hsu, will continue their ownership of the firm. Effective immediately, the Managing Member role has been transferred to Mr. Borho, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Silverstein.”

“Mr. Isaly intends to continue to practice his investment skills as the Chief Investment Officer of the Isaly Family Office, and in other future activities, subject to his obligations to OrbiMed. Mr. Isaly thanks all of his colleagues and friends for their continued support and looks forward to many more years of investing excellence.”

It seemed as if Isaly was on the verge of leaving back in December, coming after Damian Garde reported for healthcare and biopharma news site STAT allegations from five women who claimed that between 2000 and 2015, Isaly had “regularly sexually harassed OrbiMed’s female employees, particularly executive assistants.”

Two of the former employees said he repeatedly exposed female colleagues to pornography in the office. One said Isaly played a “prank on her with a sex toy.”

Isaly has denied the allegations, and OrbiMed issued a statement last year when they first surfaced, saying it “takes gender equality seriously and wishes to encourage a supportive work environment and equal opportunity for all employees.”

STAT, after this denial, reported an on-the-record account of his alleged behavior from Yanping Ren, who worked part-time at OrbiMed for 18 months as an intern, who said Isaly routinely made “vulgar and demeaning remarks to women in the workplace, including commenting on their bodies.”

“It was so normal in the company,” Ren told Garde. “It was like a fact of life that everyone had to accept. Sam just did what he could get away with.”

OrbiMed then issued a statement in early December, saying that Isaly was now to “step down ... pursuant to yearslong succession planning discussions” but did not mention or allude to the allegations against him.

It seems, however, that he hung around for more than four months, with a story by STAT over the weekend saying his actual departure now comes after “months of internal strife at OrbiMed,” according to people familiar with the matter, speaking anonymously to Garde.

The people claimed that Isaly “dragged his feet in the process” and accused him of “unilaterally approving the press release that announced his retirement without the approval of the other partners.”