Amy Schulman, who appeared headed toward a key leadership role running one of three Pfizer Inc. business divisions being launched in January, is leaving the pharmaceutical giant by what the company describes as "mutual agreement."
Schulman, an executive vice president, in July was chosen as Pfizer's new head of vaccines, oncology and consumer health care -- a post that might have helped launch her into the chief executive chair after the retirement of current CEO Ian Read.
But Pfizer, in what the industry blog FiercePharma called a "terse, yet studiously polite" announcement Tuesday, said Schulman and the company, which has a major research presence in Groton, were parting ways. She immediately left her posts as general counsel and executive team member, though Pfizer said she would remain with the company for an unspecified transition period.
No explanation was given for the departure. Albert Bourla was named to replace Schulman as group president effective Jan. 1, while Susan Silbermann is slated to take over for Bourla as global vaccines chief.
"We thank Amy for the past five years of hard work and many contributions, and we wish her well in her future endeavors," Pfizer said in a statement.
Schulman, described in a 2011 Forbes magazine article as a "master networker" who "courted media attention" and was, according to previous CEO Jeff Kindler, "overly ambitious," nevertheless survived Kindler's era and had a role in his departure. She appeared to have grown to be one of Big Pharma's most successful female executives under Read.
When the company announced a plan to separate itself into three distinct business units -- a move that investors saw as the harbinger of Pfizer's possible split into three separate companies -- Schulman had been picked to lead perhaps its most challenging group, given the importance of the company's oncology pipeline and big expectations from its vaccines portfolio.
Schulman was unafraid to speak out about issues such as gender and power. In a New York Times article just this past October, she said women need to fight for what they believe in rather than going with the corporate flow.
"I don't mean being a perennial troublemaker," she said, "but it's about having conviction and courage. ... Those are qualities that give you credit."
In 2012, according to the online site Business Insider, Schulman made more than $5.7 million in her dual roles as general counsel and leader of Pfizer's nutritions business. Schulman's departure left only three women in Pfizer's 12-person executive leadership team.
Pfizer said Schulman's departure means her immediate replacement as general counsel by Doug Lankler. Lankler originally had been expected to move into the role Jan. 1.
Also, Rady Johnson moved up his expected Jan. 1 move to chief compliance and risk officer to replace Lankler immediately.
Pfizer's split into three divisions Jan. 1 will have Geno Germano as head of Global Innovative Pharmaceuticals and John Young in the top leadership role for Global Established Pharmaceuticals.
Pfizer has said the corporate division structure will not affect the company's laboratories in Groton because R&D will remain distinct from commercial business operations.