The David H. Murdock Research Institute expects to name a new leader this summer to succeed president Michael Luther, who has stepped down.
Luther, who has been president of the DHMRI for the last two years following a career that took him to posts at Merck Group KGaA (XETRA:MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK), will remain with the nonprofit research institute in Kannapolis, N.C. in a business development role, the Salisbury Post reports.
Steven Leath, VP for research for the University of North Carolina and a member of the DHMRI’s board of directors, will take over Luther’s day-to-day duties for now.
The DHMRI was founded by businessman David Murdock, former executive and owner of the Dole Food Company (NYSE:DOLE). The institute is the centerpiece of the North Carolina Research Campus, a 350-acre campus that is built on the former Cannon Mills site, which became part of Pillowtex.
Pillowtex filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and closed the mills.
Where commerce once centered on the production of towels and sheets, Murdock envisioned a biotechnology research hub to spur new economic development in Kannapolis. Eight North Carolina universities maintain a presence on the campus, which also has some private tenants, including laboratory and diagnostics firm Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE:LH), whose main headquarters is in Burlington, N.C.
The DHMRI has had some financial stumbles. The Salisbury Post reports that the institute has had trouble paying its bills and relies on cash grants from billionaire Murdock to cover operating expenses. Murdock has pumped $120 million of his own cash into the institute, which generated $881,000 in 2009 revenue, according to the institute’s most recently available IRS Form 990.
Luther expects revenue to double this year. He said the institute should be able to cover its expenses without Murdock’s financial support by 2012.
"Financially, we’ve turned the corner," interim president Leath told the Post. "Like any startup, there were difficult periods when we were trying to control costs and trying to develop our place in the scientific world."
Leath said Murdock will continue to contribute to the institute, but that money will go toward an endowment, not operating expenses.
Leath said that there are three finalists to succeed Luther. All of them have experience in the public sector in contrast to Luther, whose experience came entirely from the private sector. Leath said he expects an announcement on Luther’s successor in 45 to 60 days.