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Forest Labs moving off LI; hundreds of jobs to be cut

Forest Laboratories Inc. in Commack on May 15,

Forest Laboratories Inc. in Commack on May 15, 2014. Six of Forest's seven facilities in Suffolk County are slated to close, according to an email from the company. Those six operations employ 475 people. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The new owner of drugmaker Forest Laboratories plans to move most of its Long Island operations to New Jersey, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs, according to a company email sent to employees this week.

Actavis PLC of Dublin purchased Forest in July for $25 billion. Forest, with roots in Inwood, pioneered the technology that slowly releases a drug into the body and specializes in branded prescription drugs.

Six of Forest's seven facilities in Suffolk County are slated to close, according to the email. Those six employ 475 people. The seventh facility is vacant.

Records show employees earned about $83,600, on average, in 2012.

Actavis chief executive Brent Saunders said the company needed to consolidate offices after a string of acquisitions.

"We recognize that this is difficult news for legacy Forest employees and their families on Long Island," he wrote in the email, sent Thursday. "We are committed to implementing a comprehensive transition plan for all eligible employees that will include severance pay, benefits, outplacement and career transition services."

Actavis will close some of the Forest offices by December and others next year. Spokesman Charlie Mayr said about 150 jobs now done on Long Island would be transferred, primarily to New Jersey; most of the other positions are to be eliminated.

Mayr said a sales training center within a 400,000-square-foot building at 500 Commack Rd. in Commack would remain open, though the building is up for sale. He estimated 30 to 40 people work at the center.

A separate Actavis plant in Copiague, which produces nicotine gum, will remain open. About 100 people work there.

Forest, as recently as 2010, employed more than 600 people at locations in Commack, Farmingdale and Hauppauge that are slated to close.

Though based in Manhattan for years, Forest is the best known of Long Island's two dozen or so drugmakers. It began moving operations from Inwood to Suffolk in the 1990s.

By 2011 Forest had 945,000 square feet of space, 55 percent of which wasn't being used.

The company then sought government help to consolidate its operations, receiving $5 million in grants and state tax credits from New York State and $2.16 million in sales and property tax breaks from Suffolk County. In return, Forest had promised to maintain 679 jobs locally and to add 10.

Anthony J. Catapano, acting executive director of the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, said Friday it was in talks with Actavis for a return of the $1 million sales-tax exemption. The drugmaker hadn't yet received property tax breaks from the IDA or the state aid.

Catapano and a New York State official confirmed neither had been given the chance to try to keep the local offices open.

The Actavis spokesman said it would not be receiving tax breaks from New Jersey.

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