Drug delivery firm SkyePharma, which put itself up for sale last November, has appointed a headhunting firm to find a new chief executive to replace Michael Ashton, according to news reports.

The news comes after SkyePharma and Innovata announced last week they would not be proceeding with a possible merger of the two firms. Innovata’s unsolicited approach to SkyePharma was the catalyst for the shake-up at the drug delivery firm, which said last week it was still in negotiations with potential acquirers of either the whole firm or some of its parts.

The search for a new CEO suggests that a break-up of SkyePharma looks more likely, according to reports, which suggest the company may sell off some delivery technologies and retain others in a stripped-down firm.

The Financial Times suggested that said it was now likely that one or more of the company's three divisions would be spun off, with injectables a likely candidate. SkyePharma would almost probably retain its inhaled and oral drug delivery activities. The company’s biggest product hope is Flutiform (fluticasone and formoterol), a combination drug for asthma which has been tipped as a potential billion-dollar product.

The firm has appointed headhunters Egon Zehnder to help find a replacement for Ashton, who was due to step down later this year in any event.