Aegerion's CEO resigns after standoff with activist investors

Former Aegerion CEO Marc Beer

Aegerion ($AEGR) Pharmaceuticals CEO Marc Beer has stepped down from his post after reaching a tenuous cease-fire with activist investors, leaving behind a company with an uncertain future.

Beer's resignation ends a nearly 5-year tenure at the helm of Aegerion that saw the company go public and launch its first drug. But the ex-CEO's penchant for bluster occasionally landed him in trouble with investors and regulators, eliciting a chiding from the FDA after he got a bit too bullish on CNBC last year.

His move also comes months after Sarissa Capital began agitating for big changes at Aegerion and days since the company's top product ran into hurdle on the market.

On Friday, Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) won FDA approval for Praluent, a cardiovascular therapy whose label includes the rare familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic disorder that leads to dangerously high cholesterol. Aegerion's Juxtapid won approval for the same indication in late 2012 but has since failed to gain much traction on the sales side. Now, with Praluent set to launch and a similar therapy from Amgen ($AMGN) about a month away, analysts expect the standard of care for FH to change, possibly imperiling Juxtapid's already modest revenue.

The drug's uncertain future was among many points raised by Sarissa, run by former Carl Icahn associate Alex Denner, when the firm disclosed a 5.8% stake in Aegerion in February. The two parties reached a détente in March, with Aegerion agreeing to add a Sarissa-selected director to its board and grant the firm the option to pick another next year. In exchange, Sarissa agreed not to mount a proxy fight in the company's next election, promising to work with the board to improve the biotech's share value.

But Aegerion's future will not include Beer, who took the company public in 2010. Chief Operating Officer Craig Fraser has resigned as well, and Aegerion board member Sandford Drexel Smith is stepping into the CEO role on an interim basis as Chairman David Scheer and the rest of the board search for a permanent replacement.

"(Smith's) remit through this transition will be to maintain Aegerion's excellence in execution, focus on its mission to deliver innovative therapies to patients in the rare disease arena and continue the company's commitment to high integrity and ethics," Scheer said in a statement.

Notably, Denner's group mounted a similar effort at Ariad Pharmaceuticals ($ARIA), launching a proxy fight earlier this year that concluded with the resignation of founder and CEO Harvey Berger in April.

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