Some AstraZeneca investors want CEO replaced

Some AstraZeneca investors want CEO replaced

April 10th, 2012 // 12:53 pm @

Some of AstraZeneca’s biggest investors are calling for a radical shake-up of the drugmaker’s board and executive team, including the replacement of David Brennan as CEO, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The move comes as Leif Johansson is set to be elected to the board as chairman-designate at the group’s annual general meeting on April 26, with a view to him taking over on September 1.

Britain’s second biggest drugmaker is under growing pressure because it has very few new drugs in its pipeline, while its existing ones face generic competition. Seroquel, its highly profitable antipsychotic medicine, lost patent protection last month.

Brennan has made little headway in fixing the pipeline problem in his six years in the top job and his one major acquisition – the 2007 purchase of U.S. biotech firm MedImmune for $15.6 billion – is widely viewed as an overpriced flop.

Brennan remains “very tarnished” by MedImmune, a top-five shareholder told Reuters last month. Other investors also questioned how long Brennan would continue as CEO. A company spokeswoman said at the time that Brennan, 58, remained fully committed to leading AstraZeneca.

Brennan and his team say they plan to pick up the pace of deal-making to help bring in new drugs. But the focus is on small acquisitions, partnerships and licensing deals, like the recent agreement with Amgen, rather than anything transformational.

One top-20 shareholder told the Financial Times there was some lobbying to replace Brennan with finance director Simon Lowth. Another said that Lowth lacked the breadth to take over, although Brennan was likely to step down by the time of his 60th birthday next year.

Tony Zook, global commercial vice-president, has also been suggested as a possible replacement.

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