Takeda COO Was Approached for Sanofi CEO Job But Declined

Takeda COO Was Approached for Sanofi CEO Job But Declined
January 22, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Biopharma analysts continue to watch closely to see who might take over the top spot at Paris-based Sanofi. It was confirmed yesterday that Christophe Weber, chief operating officer of Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. , had been offered the position, but declined.

“I’m committed to Takeda,” said Weber in a statement at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I just arrived and I’m not the kind of guy who would jump like that. It’s a unique opportunity at Takeda and I’m very committed to it.”

Previous Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher was ousted by the board of directors on Oct. 29, 2014. Viehbacher had run the company since 2008, but had a rocky relationship with the board, despite being popular with the investors.

In the six years Viehbacher ran the company, he oversaw the acquisition of Genzyme Corporation and company shares doubled in that time. However, there was apparent friction with the board over what they viewed as unilateral decisions made by Viehbacher, such as a plan to sell the company’s portfolio of mature drugs worth about $7.9 billion. The portfolio included about 200 drugs, including blood thinner Plavix and antibiotic Pyostacine.

In addition, despite Sanofi headquarters being in Paris, Viehbacher had moved to the U.S. for family reasons and ran the company primarily from Boston. It was estimated that he only spend about a third of his time in France.

Since Viehbacher’s firing, Sanofi has been run by board chair Serge Weinberg.

Several high profile execs have been cited as possible frontrunners for the chief executive position besides Weber. Also under consideration are Oliver Bohuon, of medical device maker Smith & Nephew Plc, Eric Cornut, chief ethics officer of Novartis AG and Olivier Brandicourt, director of healthcare for Bayer AG . Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca PLC was offered the position, but reportedly declined.

Further complicating matters, on Dec. 4, 2014, BioSpace reported that a former paralegal of Sanofi, Diane Ponte, had filed a whistleblower lawsuit in state court in Newark, N.J., claiming the company illegally paid $34 million in kickbacks to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies.

Part of Ponte’s lawsuit indicates that her resistance to signing off on the questionable agreements had drawn the attention of Viehbacher. She claims that when she reported the fraud to her bosses, she was subjected to a “severe and pervasive pattern of workplace retaliation” and was fired on Oct. 29, 2014.

A class action lawsuit was filed on Jan. 19, 2015 by Pomerantz LLP against Sanofi and some of its officers in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on behalf of anybody who purchased Sanofi securities between Feb. 7, 2013 andDec. 3, 2014. This lawsuit is directly related to the agreements Ponte alerted authorities to.

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