What Biogen CFO's Departure Means for Company's M&A Strategy

Published: Jun 16, 2017

What Biogen CFO's Departure Means for Company's M&A Strategy June 15, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Everybody loves a mystery, and in terms of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen , the big mystery is whether the company will buy something soon or be bought by someone else. Investors and analysts are concerned the company’s multiple sclerosis (MS) franchise is on the wane and although Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) earlier this year promises to be profitable for the company, much of its other big products are several years off, if at all.

Which is why so much movement in the executive suites has everyone pondering the tea leaves on whether or not it indicates a potential acquisition or sale. In January, Michel Vounatsos stepped in as chief executive officer. Since then, Adriana Karaboutis, technology head, Kenneth DiPietro, human resources boss, and Paul Clancy, chief financial officer, have left the company. Clancy just announced this on Tuesday. He will be headed to Alexion Pharmaceuticals .

Those are just a few of the big executive changes in the last year. But the move by the company’s chief financial officer is sparking new speculation on the company’s M&A strategy.

Salim Syed, an analyst with Mizuho, said in a statement, “If Biogen were a potential acquisition target, my guess is Paul would have probably stayed through the acquisition.”

On the contrary, Alethia Young, an analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote Tuesday in a research note that after talks with company management, Biogen doesn’t think that Clancy’s departure “interferes with the company’s ability to do deals, since it has a deep bench.”

And in the short time Vounatsos has been at the helm, Biogen has done two deals. On April 13, Biogen signed a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb for BMS-986168 for $300 million up front and $550 million in milestones plus royalties. BMS-986168 is in development for Alzheimer’s and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). And on May 15, it acquired CIRARA, a Phase III candidate for a type of stroke, large hemispheric infarction (LHI), from Remedy Pharmaceuticals, reportedly for $120 million.

Although the company is currently without a chief scientific officer after Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas changed to part-time visiting scientist, it did bring on former Sanofi Genzyme executive Jean-Paul Kress to handle commercial operations outside the U.S.

Clancy’s not leaving until the end of the second quarter. He joined Biogen in 2001 and has held various roles, including vice president of business planning, portfolio management and U.S. marketing, and senior vice president of finance. Before Biogen he was at PepsiCo (PEP) for 13 years.

Syed told TheStreet, “Paul Clancy is an extremely high integrity individual. It would be completely anathema for him to leave the company in a state of mess.” More likely, Syed speculated, Clancy’s shift was a career opportunity. “You don’t get many opportunities to go from one large cap biotech to another.”

There’s been fairly constant speculation on who Biogen might buy or who might buy Biogen. Almost a year ago in August 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported Biogen was the focus of Merck & Co. and Allergan plc . But no deals have been announced.

Biogen is currently trading for $253.37. The yearly high was on August 2, 2016, when shares traded for $330.11.

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