© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A bridge is decorated with the logo of a Bayer AG, a German pharmaceutical and chemical maker in Wuppertal, Germany August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Ratta/
BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer (OTC:) bowed to investor pressure on Wednesday and named Bill Anderson, most recently head of Roche’s pharmaceuticals business, to take over from Werner Baumann as its CEO in June.
Anderson’s appointment, which takes effect from June 1, comes after mounting shareholder pressure to remove Baumann, who engineered Bayer’s troubled Monsanto (NYSE:) takeover, and install a new leader to revive the company’s share price.
News of the CEO change sent the German drugs-to-pesticides giant’s shares to their highest level in nearly eight months.
“We welcome the timely change at the top of Bayer and hope that the fresh perspective of an external candidate will provide new momentum for the strategy of the company,” said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka, a top-20 investor in Bayer.
Markus Manns of Union Investment, among Bayer’s 10 biggest shareholders, said Anderson was a “very good choice” who could provide the relief investors in the company have been waiting for.
Anderson will join Bayer as a management board member on April 1, it 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 an outstanding track record of building strong product pipelines and turning biotech breakthroughs into products,” Bayer Supervisory Board Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann said in a statement.
Shares in Bayer closed up 6% on the news of the new CEO, reaching the top of Frankfurt’s blue-chip index and hitting their highest level since June last year.
“Bill Anderson’s mission is clear: enable Bayer to realize its full potential and create sustainable value for our shareholders, farmers, patients, consumers, employees, and all stakeholders of the company,” Winkeljohann added.
At Roche, Anderson was instrumental in the Swiss group’s successful years-long campaign to diversify away from Roche’s traditional focus on cancer. Anderson helped to launch new drugs to make up for a decline in revenues from established oncology bestsellers that lost patent protection.
At the helm of Bayer, he will be tasked with getting the litigation risk over weedkiller Roundup under control and review a diversified corporate structure that some investors have said needs to be untangled to boost the share price.
Sources told Reuters earlier this week that activist investor Jeff Ubben had contacted fellow investors to drum up support for big changes at Bayer, including the swift replacement of Baumann.
Baumann was given a new contract in 2020 that runs until 2024 and said at the time he would leave the company when that expires.
Just weeks after becoming chief executive in 2016, Baumann unveiled plans to purchase Monsanto, with the full backing of then-Chairman Werner Wenning, who retired in 2020.
Baumann’s tenure was dominated by U.S. litigation claiming that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide causes cancer and over environmental pollution related to chemicals known as PCBs, which has cost Bayer billions and roiled shareholders.
GRAPHIC: Bayer shares have underperformed since buying Monsanto – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/klpygdbagpg/bayer.PNG