RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Wouldn’t it be nice to be a fly on the wall in the executive boardroom at Quintiles.

The battle for control of Quintiles Transnational will continue — perhaps for a good while. But just how much others want the company remains to be seen.

Since Quintiles’ stock was put “in play” a month ago, two stock analysts have downgraded QTRN stock. Another had downgraded it on Oct. 3, even though the company has beat earnings estimates for two straight quarters in a down economy.

This morning, First Albany joined the trend by changing from “neutral” to underperform.

“Firm does not think there is or will be a better offer in the near future. Advises investors to reduce position following the artificial 38% run-up in shares from the $8.31 level traded when the offer was announced Oct 14,” reported Briefing.com.

The lineup of 13 analysts covering the firm looks like this:

Strong buy: 1
Buy: 1
Hold: 7
Sell: 2
Strong sell: 2

Quintiles’ board of directors announced Monday after the markets had closed that it was rejecting a $1.32 billion buyout offer from Dennis Gillings, the company founder and chairman of the board. At the same time, the board said a “special committee” that it had formed to consider Gillings’ buyout would work with Morgan Stanley to “investigate strategic alternatives available”, such as selling to someone else or keeping the company independent and publicly traded.

“The Special Committee has not made any determination as to whether a sale of the company or any other alternative would best serve the interest of Quintiles and its shareholders,” the company added in a statement. Morgan Stanley and the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher were retained to review the proposal in conjunction with the committee.

News of the rejection and the stock downgrade triggered plenty of interesting comments about Quintiles online. Check out:
target=”_blank”>http://messages.yahoo.com/?action=q&board=QTRN

Quintiles (Nasdaq: QTRN) stock closed at $11.50 on Monday, down 9 cents. But at 2:30 PM today, the stock was actually trading up 31 cents. By the time the markets closed the stock was up to $11.93, a 3.7 percent gain for the day.

Despite the stock’s gains, a number of people participating in online message posts have speculated that should Quintiles reject Gillings’ offer that the company’s stock would fall. The chatter also speculates about what’s happening within Quintiles’ management as control for the company continues. Some analysts have praised Quintiles’ rejection of the deal, but others have wondered whether the stock will climb any higher at all — and if anyone else will make a bid to buy. The message boards hinted at Cardinal Healthcare as a buyer, and The News & Observer says today that PPD out of Wilmington, another big CRO, could be a suitor.

Regardless of what happens, the jockeying back and forth makes for good copy. Could be something like right out of “Wall Street” — except the person seeking to take over is the original founder, Gillings, who also is chairman of the board.

Gillings, a former professor of biostatistics at UNC-Chapel Hill, founded Quintiles in 1982 after providing consulting services to various pharmaceutical companies in 1974. He resigned from UNC in 1988 to devote full time to Quintiles, and the company went public in 1994. Gillings still owns some 5 percent of the company’s stock.

He’s still quite proud of the achievement. When he and his wife, Joan, were named to head the RTP United Way campaign in March, Gillings said: “As founder of the largest publicly traded company in the Triangle that is entirely home grown over the last 20 years, I would like to give back to the community which has helped Quintiles and me thrive.”

Bid drove up stock price

Stock in the contract research organization, which employs some 1,000 in RTP and has annual revenues of over $1 billion, sold as high as $19.30 on March 18. But a falling market and the acquisition of another CRO — Pharmica Corp. by drug giant Pfizer — led to fears that there would be less demand for CRO services and that consolidation in the CRO industry would occur, according to Dow Jones News Service.

Quintiles stock tumbled to a 52-week low of $7.65 on Oct. 10. The price had rebounded a bit to $8.31 when, on Oct. 14, Quintiles announced Gillings’ offer of $11.25 a share — a 35 percent premium. With the stock in play, it climbed above Gillings’ bid.

The offer also triggered a number of shareholder lawsuits that claimed Gillings’ offer was too low and the company should not accept the sale.

Gillings already has lined up more than $900 million in financing, according to Quintiles. He has a $298 million commitment from Bank One and $620 million from Citicorp and Salomon Smith Barney. Gillings also said he would use his own cash and stock holdings in Quintiles.

According to the company, Gillings spends much of his time now with the PharmBio Development group within Quintiles which is focused on investment opportunities. PharmBio was among the investors listed in a $12.8 million private equity placement announced Monday by Discovery Laboratories out of Pennsylvania.

So what will Gillings do now? How the Street reacts to this latest news could help determine whether he does in fact regain control of the company he started.

If Gillings doesn’t give up, his battle might make a good Oliver Stone script someday.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.