Pfizer names George Lorch chairman

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Drug developer Pfizer Inc. said Monday that it named George A. Lorch as its new chairman of the board of directors, one week following the abrupt resignation of CEO Jeffrey B. Kindler.

Lorch, 68, has been an independent director on the board since 2000.

Former Chairman and CEO Jeffery B. Kindler left the company Dec. 5 and Ian Read, 57, was immediately named CEO.

Pfizer had previously said it would name an independent board member as non-executive chairman. Lorch is the former chairman and CEO of Armstrong Holdings Inc., a maker of flooring and ceiling materials.

The changes come as Pfizer struggles to build a pipeline of products ahead of generic competition for the blockbuster cholesterol drug, Lipitor. That key drug loses patent protection in December of 2011. The company has also faced at least half a dozen failures in late-stage testing of potential drugs over the last two years, including of Alzheimer’s disease treatment Dimebon, osteoarthritis treatment tanezumab and cancer drug figitumumab. Multiple trials that were designed to expand the marketing approval of its cancer drug Sutent also failed.

The company also made an expensive deal in October of 2009, paying $68 billion to buy rival Wyeth. It had to halve its dividend to pay for the buyout, angering investors. The company on Monday said the board of directors boosted its quarterly dividend 11 percent to 20 cents per share from 18 cents per share.

Shares of Pfizer rose 17 cents to close at $17.19.

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