In the bareknuckle world of activist investors, Alex Denner, a former protégé of Carl Icahn, has made his name sparring with pharmaceutical companies. More than two years after setting Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in his sights, Denner will now take a board seat he once threatened to seize by force.
Ironwood has appointed Denner, a founding partner at activist investor Sarissa Capital Management, to its 10-member board of directors, the company said last week.
Denner, a well-known proxy brawler, helped spearhead Ironwood’s spinoff of its R&D unit in 2019 under the wing of former CEO Peter Hecht. Now, Ironwood says it can use his expertise in building the company’s current operations—and, of course, building value for shareholders.
Ironwood has already revamped its business aside from the R&D spinoff. It followed up its announcement of that deal by ending a licensing agreement with AstraZeneca for gout drug Zurampic in late 2018. All told, those moves sliced away hundreds of jobs at Ironwood, which has been helmed by Mark Mallon, formerly AstraZeneca’s EVP of global product and portfolio strategy, since January 2019.
Denner’s appointment comes as Ironwood grows revenue at a rapid clip. The company snagged $131.7 million in the third quarter—more than double what it brought in for the same quarter last year—driven by growing uptake for Allergan-partnered GI drug Linzess, which hit $241 million in total sales in Q3.
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