Good cop, bad cop
Hedge fund operator
Carl Icahn may have received most of the credit, and certainly the lion's share of the cash, created by his high-profile biotech raiding parties. But Alex Denner has been credited as the power behind the throne, a key player in the turnaround story of several top life sciences companies and a figure now promising to start stealing his own headlines now that he's jumped Icahn's ship to helm his own hedge fund.
The two came together at ImClone after both recognized the substantial amount of money that could be made by turning around the troubled company--after CEO Sam Waksal wound up in prison after the notorious insider trading scandal. Denner headed the executive committee that held the wheel, pushing a lead experimental drug--ramucirumab--from Phase I right into late-stage studies. And he helped engineer the $6.5 billion sale to Eli Lilly ($LLY) when everyone could focus on the value of Erbitux and its experimental cancer treatments.
Working directly under Icahn, it was Denner who played the good cop to Icahn's bad cop at Genzyme, where he made friends and influenced the raider's enemies. In the end he was the one that got the cheers when Sanofi stepped up with a $20 billion buyout. And while he may never make Jim Mullen's Christmas card list after playing the troublemaker on Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) board, who can ignore the buoyant honeymoon period that Biogen has enjoyed since the palace coup that led George Scangos into the top office?
Combining knowledge of the business with a clear connection to the science involved, Denner has created the template for the modern-day biotech turnaround story.
"Alex actually understands the science--and how to build that into a business," ex-con and ImClone founder Sam Waksal told Bloomberg. "When a company is broken, he knows what should be done to fix it."
As an inside player, few can compare to Denner. The big question now is where he plans to play next. And who will follow his game book on their own deals?