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QuidelOrtho Parts Ways With Longtime CEO Doug Bryant

NEW YORK – The board of directors of QuidelOrtho announced on Wednesday that it terminated the employment of longtime CEO Douglas Bryant on Feb. 14. The San Diego-based diagnostics developer appointed Michael Iskra as interim CEO and Robert Bujarski as interim president in a move intended "to enhance operational efficiency, drive revenue growth, and deliver shareholder value," the board said in a statement.

QuidelOrtho's fourth quarter and full-year earnings misses on Feb. 13 prompted investment analyst downgrades, triggering a Valentine's Day sell-off on Wall Street that sheared off more than a third of the stock's value. The firm subsequently issued a correction to its 2024 adjusted EPS guidance, which appeared to lead to further consternation among investors.

"Now is the time for a change in leadership," Kenneth Buechler, chairman of QuidelOrtho's board, said in a statement. "All of us would like to thank Doug for his years of dedication and wish him well in his future endeavors."

In a form 8-K filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, QuidelOrtho's board said it has created an "Office of the CEO" comprising Iskra, Bujarski, Buechler, and CFO Joe Busky. The board also noted that after the termination decision, Bryant informed the board of his intent to resign from the board effective Feb. 21, reducing the board's size to 10 directors. The board also said that Bryant's termination was categorized as "involuntary" and, following customary release procedures, will result in severance and payments to defray the costs of transition.

QuidelOrtho had attributed the Q4 results and lower-than-expected full-year 2024 guidance to an "optimistic outlook" for testing in endemic phases of COVID-19 and influenza infection following the pandemic.

Bryant served as CEO at QuidelOrtho for 15 years, guiding the firm through the reclassification of rapid influenza tests and transitioning it from being predominantly a maker of immunoassays to having a larger footprint in molecular diagnostics — including a lengthy development process and ultimate debut late last year of the Savanna rapid MDx system.

Bryant also oversaw the $440 million acquisition of Alere/Abbott's Triage and BNP businesses, the $6 billion merger between Quidel and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, and a period of massive expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic followed by challenges adapting to a post-COVID landscape. Prior to heading Quidel, Bryant briefly served as chief operating officer of Luminex and held various executive positions over 23 years at Abbott Laboratories.

Iskra formerly served as president of North America commercial operations of Ortho Clinical Diagnostics after that firm spun off from Johnson & Johnson in 2014, with the final year of his nearly seven-year tenure at Ortho served as executive VP of commercial excellence and strategy.

Bujarski, meanwhile, has served for nearly 19 years at QuidelOrtho and Quidel in various executive roles, including as chief operating officer of Quidel from September 2020 to May 2022.

The board said it has begun a search for a new CEO, considering internal and external candidates, and will postpone its investor day originally scheduled for March 20.

Last week, JP Morgan downgraded QuidelOrtho from Neutral to Underweight and lowered the stock's price target to $37 from $66 after the Q4 and full-year earnings results, due to the margin and earnings misses and "disappointing" 2024 guidance of an adjusted EPS approximately 46 percent below Wall Street expectations at the midpoint. On Wednesday, Casey Woodring at JP Morgan reiterated the Underweight rating in a note to investors, deeming the firing of Byrant and postponement of the investor day to be signs of continuing turmoil at the firm.

Shares of QuidelOrtho were up approximately 4 percent to $47.94 in Wednesday morning trading on the Nasdaq.