Bayer appoints outsider Anderson as CEO after pressure from investors

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer bowed to investor pressure on Wednesday and appointed Bill Anderson, Roche’s recently head of pharmaceuticals, to take over from Werner Baumann as chief executive officer in June.

Anderson’s appointment, which will take effect June 1, comes after mounting pressure from shareholders to remove Baumann, who engineered Bayer’s troubled Monsanto takeover, and install a new leader to boost the company’s stock price .

News of the chief executive change sent shares in the German pesticide drug giant to their highest level in nearly eight months.

“We welcome the timely change at Bayer’s top management and hope that the new perspective of an external candidate will provide fresh impetus to the company’s strategy,” said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka, one of the top 20 investor in Bayer.

Union Investment’s Markus Manns, a top 10 Bayer shareholder, said Anderson was a “very good choice” who could provide the relief the company’s investors have been waiting for.

Anderson will join Bayer as a board member on April 1, he said, adding that Baumann will work closely with the 56-year-old to ensure a smooth transition before he retires from the drugmaker after 35 years at the end of May. .

“Bill has exceptional experience building strong product pipelines and transforming biotech innovations into products,” Bayer supervisory board chairman Norbert Winkeljohann said in a statement.

Shares of Bayer closed up 6% on news of the new CEO, topping the Frankfurt blue-chip index and hitting its highest level since June last year.

“Bill Anderson’s mission is clear: to enable Bayer to realize its full potential and create sustainable value for our shareholders, farmers, patients, consumers, employees and all company stakeholders,” added Winkeljohann.

At Roche, Anderson was instrumental in the Swiss group’s successful years-long campaign to diversify Roche’s traditional focus on cancer. Anderson has helped launch new drugs to offset a decline in revenue from established oncology bestsellers that have lost patent protection.

At the helm of Bayer, he will be tasked with keeping litigation risk on Roundup herbicide under control and overhauling a diversified corporate structure that some investors say needs to be untangled to boost the stock price.

Sources told Reuters earlier this week that activist investor Jeff Ubben had reached out to other investors to rally support for big changes at Bayer, including the swift replacement of Baumann.

Baumann was given a new contract in 2020 that runs through 2024 and said he would leave the company when it expired.

Just weeks after becoming CEO in 2016, Baumann unveiled plans to buy Monsanto, with the full backing of then chairman Werner Wenning, who retired in 2020.

Baumann’s tenure was dominated by US litigation that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup causes cancer and environmental pollution related to chemicals known as PCBs, which has cost Bayer billions and upset shareholders.

GRAPH: Bayer shares have underperformed since the Monsanto purchase

(Reporting by Patricia Weiss, Kirsti Knolle, Christoph Steitz and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Tom Sims, Alexander Smith and Lisa Shumaker)

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