Bayer picks outsider Anderson as CEO after pressure from investors Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A bridge is decorated with the logo of Bayer AG, a German drug 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, the recent head of Roche’s pharmaceutical business, to take over as chief executive from Werner Baumann in June.

Anderson’s appointment, effective June 1, comes after mounting pressure from shareholders to oust Baumann, who engineered Bayer’s troubled Monsanto (NYSE: ) takeover and installation of a new leader to revive the company’s share price.

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

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

Markus Manns of Union Investment, among Bayer’s 10 largest 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 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 at the end of May after 35 years.

“Bill has an outstanding track record in building powerful products and turning biotech breakthroughs into products,” Bayer Supervisory Board Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann said in a statement.

Bayer shares rose 6% on the news of the new chief executive, topping Frankfurt’s blue-chip index and hitting their 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 of the company’s stakeholders,” added Winkeljohann.

At Roche, Anderson was instrumental in the Swiss group’s successful multi-year campaign to diversify away from Roche’s traditional focus on cancer. Anderson helped launch new drugs to offset declining revenue from well-known oncology bestsellers that had lost patent protection.

At Bayer’s helm, he will be tasked with reining in the risk of litigation over Weedkiller Roundup and reviewing a diversified corporate structure that some investors have said needs to be unraveled to boost the stock price.

Sources told Reuters earlier this week that activist investor Jeff Ubben had contacted other investors to drum up support for major changes at Bayer, including a swift replacement of Baumann.

In 2020, Baumann received a new contract that runs until 2024 and said at the time that he would leave the company when it expired.

Just weeks after becoming CEO in 2016, Baumann revealed plans to buy Monsanto, with the full support of then-Chairman Werner Wenning, who is set to retire in 2020.

Baumann’s tenure has been dominated by US litigation alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide causes cancer and excessive environmental pollution linked to chemicals known as PCBs, costing Bayer billions and upsetting shareholders.

GRAPHIC: Bayer shares underperform since Monsanto acquisition –

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