German drugmaker Bayer on Wednesday named veteran pharmaceutical executive Bill Anderson to replace current head Werner Baumann as its next CEO, shaking up the company’s leadership as it tries to fend off activist investors.
Anderson, who stepped down as the head of Roche’s pharma division late last year, will join Bayer’s board in April. His appointment as CEO becomes effective June 1.
The decision to elect Anderson as the 160-year-old industrials giant’s next leader was unanimous and the product of a “thorough” selection process that began mid-last year, Bayer said in a statement,
“He is the ideal candidate to lead Bayer together with the team into a new, successful chapter at a time of a disruptive innovation cycle in biology, chemistry and artificial intelligence,” said Norbert Winkeljohann, chair of Bayer’s supervisory board. “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.”
Bayer has been facing rising pressure from investors unhappy with the company’s performance, including calls to break up its business, which spans pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and agricultural products. Shares have lost roughly a third of their value over the past five years, a period of time in which Bayer has been hampered by litigation related to products acquired via its 2018 deal for seedmaker Monsanto.
As an outside candidate, Anderson represents a shift in management for Bayer, which has been led by company veteran Baumann for the past seven years. He is also an experienced drug developer, having led Roche’s Genentech unit before being promoted to replace Daniel O’Day as head of the Swiss company’s pharmaceuticals division. Prior to Genentech, Anderson worked at Biogen in various roles.
As head of Roche Pharmaceuticals, Anderson oversaw the development and growth of a crop of new medicines the drugmaker is counting on to replace once top-selling cancer medicines Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan.
At Bayer, he will also have to refresh a drug business led by aging products, such as the blood thinner Xarelto the company markets with Johnson & Johnson. And he’ll need to manage the company’s crop science and consumer divisions, which collectively accounted for nearly two-thirds of Bayer’s sales over the first nine months of 2022.
“Bayer is an innovative company that is already delivering tremendous benefits for the nutrition, health and environmental protection of the world,” Anderson said in Bayer’s statement. “I look forward to working with the people of Bayer to accelerate innovation, increase performance, advance sustainability and unleash the full potential of the company.”
An American, Anderson will be based in Bayer’s headquarters of Leverkusen, Germany when he takes the CEO position later this year.
Roche, which is undergoing a CEO change of its own, recently promoted Teresa Graham to replace Anderson as head of Roche Pharmaceuticals
Shares in Bayer rose by 5% in Wednesday trading on the news.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional detail.