PDL BioPharma Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., announced that it is placing the entire company on the selling block, and that its embattled CEO, Mark McDade, has stepped down from his position.

In August the company announced the discontinuation of its Phase III program for the monoclonal antibody Nuvion (visilizumab) due to insufficient efficacy and an inferior safety profile compared to intravenous steroids alone, and said it would sell off its commercial operations to focus on development-stage operations. That did little to assuage investors, notably major stockholder Highland Capital Management, which pressed for the immediate departure of McDade.

McDade had been cleared in an internal investigation of alleged improper personal conduct and breach of fiduciary duty, but then announced he would leave by the end of the year. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 30, 2007.)

Last week, Highland Capital Management publicly sought the resignations of both McDade and board chairman L. Patrick Gage. McDade is gone, but with his departure, the board named Gage as the interim CEO. It also elected Karen A. Dawes to replace Gage as chairwoman of the board.

"Following a comprehensive review of available options, the PDL board has concluded that seeking offers for the sale of the company as a whole or of its key assets is our primary strategic focus," Dawes said in a statement.

The company said the board's finance committee, chaired by board member Joseph Klein, will oversee the transaction process, and Merrill Lynch & Co. has been named financial advisor and authorized to seek proposals "that will maximize stockholder value."