Acting swiftly to replace its departed chief executive officer, Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. yesterday named pharmaceutical veteran David P. Holveck to lead the Chadds Ford drugmaker.

Holveck, 62, who lives in Ambler and retired March 1 as president of Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., made a name for himself in the 1990s as chief executive officer of Centocor Inc., the Philadelphia region's first major biotechnology company.

Holveck's appointment may calm investor jitters after Endo's largest shareholder, D.E. Shaw & Co., demanded Feb. 27 that the board hire an investment bank to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, before hiring a new CEO. Shaw has been pushing to change the company's focus away from acquisitions and licensing and toward Endo's core pain business.

Holveck will be president, CEO and an Endo director, starting April 1. He replaces Peter A. Lankau, who stepped down March 1.

Holveck met yesterday with Endo employees and was unavailable for interviews, said a spokesman for the company, Fred Spar.

Dennis "Mickey" Flynn, president of Pennsylvania Bio, a statewide trade association for biotechnology and life-sciences companies, said Holveck was a "great choice" and proven leader.

"David is not a caretaker. He is a visionary who is going to want to grow the company," Flynn said. "They've now got a leader. It will calm down the market a little bit."

When Centocor was bought for $4.9 billion by Johnson & Johnson in 1999, Holveck became a company group chairman. In 2003, he was named president of J&J Development Corp. He had offices in Radnor and New Brunswick, J&J's headquarters.

D.E. Shaw, which owns 9.8 percent of Endo's shares, said yesterday that "as the largest shareholder of Endo, we expect continued interaction with the board, and now with Mr. Holveck, regarding the company's strategic direction and the specific recommendations we outlined in a recent public letter."

Endo board chairman Roger Kimmel had responded March 5 to the dissident shareholder, saying that a sale "would be very disruptive" and would harm the company's central pain-product business.

Kimmel said in his response that selecting a new CEO was key to the company's growth and its future.

"Mr. Holveck is a strong pick and the right pick for Endo," analyst Corey Davis of Natixis Bleichroeder Inc. said in a note to clients yesterday. "He has a solid track record of execution and in-depth experience" in pain medicines.

As CEO of Centocor, in Horsham, Holveck developed the blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis treatment Remicade.

"Informally, he has been known by many over the years as 'Mr. Fix-It,' so he could help calm some of Endo's critics," Davis said. "He could be transformational to Endo if he can accomplish here what he did at Centocor."

Centocor came close to cratering in 1992, when it failed to win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its antibacterial drug Centoxin. Many analysts predicted Centocor's demise.

Instead, Holveck, who had been promoted from head of the diagnostics division to chief executive in November 1992, turned the company around. He shelved Centoxin in favor of other products. His efforts bore fruit when Centocor's first FDA-approved drug, ReoPro, for cardiac therapy, reached the market in 1995.

"Dave was the operational person who was able to pull everything together and make Centocor what it is today," said Flynn. "He has demonstrated that he can lead."

Endo shares closed up 31 cents, or 1.27 percent, at $24.63 on the Nasdaq.

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd
at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.