Since launch in 1996, Pozen has focused quite seriously on technology to develop safer aspirin and to deliver real pain relief for migraine sufferers, so it would be a cheap shot to refer to Pozen’s management change as a headache for the outspoken John Plachetka.

A former CEO of Inspire Pharmaceuticals when that Triangle company was acquired by Merck will replace him.

And given the track record of the new CEO, one has to speculate: Is Pozen for sale?

The new management team wasted no time in acting. Early Tuesday, Pozen said it had created a “wholly owned Irish subsidiary” (Pozen Limited) with plans to grow Pozen internationally.

But there can be little doubt that what happened Monday at the Chapel Hill company has been in the works for some time. The scale of change Pozen announced don’t happen overnight, especially when a founder of a promising company leaves and two senior executives recruited from the same company come on board with a package of incentives.

It’s not a cheap one, either. The two execs get stock worth 9.5 percent of the company.

Plachetka, the chair and CEO of Pozen who grew the company to an IPO and oversaw development of a safer aspirin, was replaced “effective immediately,” Pozen (Nasdaq: POZN) said.

He also won’t be a member of the board.

Pozen said Plachetka, who over the years earned a reputation for speaking out with candor and frustration about everything from partners not delivering on sales to negotiations with the Food and Drug Administration, was retiring.

Taking over as board chair is Arthur Kirsch, who certainly knows Plachetka and Pozen well. He’s been on the board since 2004.

A kind sendoff

At least Pozen had the class to include some very nice comments about Plachetka, unlike NetApp’s abrupt writeoutt of Chair and CEO Tom Goergens, which also happened on Monday.

“John’s contributions as founder, inventor, and chief scientist of Pozen will be hard to replace,” Kirsch said. “He has been the driving force in Pozen’s development for nearly 20 years and we respect his decision to retire. All of the management team and the Board of Directors thank him for his long service as our Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.”

In a clear indication that the Plachetka replacement had been underway for some time, Pozen disclosed the hiring of pharmaceutical veteran Adrian Adams as the new CEO. Pozen also named a colleague of Adams as president and chief operating officer. Additionally, Adams gets a board seat.

“Now, it is time to move POZEN to the next level and I am very pleased that Adrian and his team have agreed to assume this responsibility,” Plachetka said in a statement.

Adams comes to Pozen from Auxilium Pharmaceiticals, where he was CEO before the firm was acquired by Endo International in January. He has worked more than 30 years in the drug industry, according to Pozen. He also is a former CEO of Inspire.

The Adams resume

Given Adams’ recruitment and hiring, one has to ask the question: Is Pozen now for sale?

Look at Adams’ record as provided by Pozen:

“Mr. Adams is a highly qualified pharmaceutical executive with over 30 years of experience in the industry and a reputation for growing organizations by excellence in commercialization and by executing on business development opportunities that deliver compelling growth and value for shareholders.

“He most recently served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company, until its acquisition by Endo International plc in January 2015.

“Prior to joining Auxilium, Mr. Adams served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Neurologix, Inc., a company focused on development of multiple innovative gene therapies for disorders of the brain and central nervous system.

“Prior to that Mr. Adams served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he oversaw the commercialization and development of prescription pharmaceutical products and led the company through a strategic acquisition by global pharmaceutical leader Merck & Co., Inc.

“Prior to Inspire, Mr. Adams served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sepracor Inc. until its acquisition by Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co.

“Prior to joining Sepracor, Mr. Adams was President and Chief Executive Officer of Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until its acquisition by Abbott Laboratories.

“Mr. Adams has also held general management and senior international and national marketing positions at SmithKline Beecham,Novartis and ICI (now part of AstraZeneca).”

Kirsch noted in the announcement that Adams’ “leadership qualities combined with his operational expertise and ability to drive strategic corporate development initiative makes him the right person to position the company for its next stage of growth. He has successfully led four public companies in the face of the rapidly changing healthcare environment and brings extensive global experience launching and commercializing innovative pharmaceutical products. This experience will be critical in helping Ppozen in assessing our strategic options at this time and leading [pain reliever] Yosprala through the final anticipated stages of approval and into commercial launch.”

Note the “our strategic options” comment.

Pozen’s challenges in getting Yosprala through regulatory hurdles had been a huge task for Plachetka. Now it’s Adam’s turn, although he will have some help.

Joining Pozen as part of Monday’s changes is Andrew Koven as president and chief business officer. He also worked at Auxilium and Inspire.

The incentives

Pozen offered an “inducement” to both executives to take their new jobs.

Adams gets stock equal to 5.4 percent of the company.

Adams gets stock worth 4.1 percent of the firm.

The stock vests over a four-year period.

But will Pozen even be around that long?