That would be APP Pharmaceuticals, the drug business controlled by L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and soon to be sold to German medical supplies provider Fresenius SE for $3.7 billion. Michelle Leder at footnoted.org came upon an innocuous 8K filing by APP on the afternoon of July 2. There wasn’t much there - just the notification that the board's compensation committee had approved retention agreements for APP's president and COO. Under terms of these agreements, the executives named would receive a severance payment in the event that "employment is terminated for certain reasons within two years following a change of control of the Company." Fine - these kinds of arrangements are little more than the boilerplate of an employment agreement. But they're usually not filed three days before the company announces plans to be purchased. Wait, there's more. The stock began taking off on Wednesday afternoon, right around the time of the filing. Leder picks it up from there:
But it’s not just the stock that bounced. A short time ago, I spoke with Ryan Dietrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Research who said the options activity late last week looked unusual, given that normal open interest for APPX options had been “very light”. But on Thursday, someone made a pretty bold bet and bought 540 August call options @ 17.50 a share, which Dietrick says likely went for $1.30 to $1.40. Right now, those options are going for $6.30 a share, which makes whomever bought those options on Thursday either very smart or unusually lucky.
Soon-Shiong is, as they say, no stranger to controversy. Here's the opening of a 2003 Forbes profile:
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has been called ruthless and a headline-grabber. As a scientist he has been criticized for hyping his research results; as a drugmaker he has been accused of ripping off investors. Short-sellers have boldly bet against him, risking huge losses. Even his own brother, an early backer, sued him for fraud and fired him--twice--from the company they started. Their skirmishing lasted two years and destroyed their relationship. Yet Soon-Shiong, chairman and controlling shareholder of publicly held American Pharmaceutical Partners, endured the blows and has been largely exonerated--in the meantime, rising to billionaire status. Credit his immovable faith in the promise of an experimental cancer treatment dubbed Abraxane.