Deborah Dunsire, named Woman of the Year by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association in 2009, was elected to the board of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (4502), making her the second female director of a top-10 Japanese company.
Shareholders of Takeda, Asia’s largest drugmaker, approved Dunsire’s nomination at their annual meeting in Osaka today, Takeda spokesman Mitsuo Oguri said. Dunsire, 50, heads the company’s cancer drug unit Millennium Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dunsire becomes the third non-Japanese resident and first woman to join Takeda’s nine-member board. Of the 10 largest Topix members by index weight, only Fanuc Corp. (6954) has a female director, Mineko Yamazaki, who joined the board of the world’s biggest maker of computer controls for machine tools in June 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“The overwhelmingly majority of Japanese corporations tend to be one pattern, fairly conservative and fairly slow moving style on corporate governance management,” said Veronica Taylor who specializes in commercial law, society in Asia and governance at Australian National University in Canberra.
Takeda chose someone who is distinguished to bring different viewpoints to the boardroom table and “that’s a very positive move,” Taylor said.
Dunsire, a Zimbabwe-born doctor, joined Takeda in 2008, when the Japanese drugmaker agreed to buy Millennium for $8.9 billion. Before Millennium, she headed Novartis AG (NOVN)’s North American oncology unit, where she oversaw the release of the leukemia treatment Gleevec.
In other board changes, Masato Iwasaki, Takeda’s head of Japanese sales, was elected to the board, and Shigenori Ohkawa, former chief scientific officer, stepped down.
Dunsire is the third non-resident of Japan to become a Takeda director after Tadataka Yamada, former chairman of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), and Frank Morich, former head of Bayer AG (BAYN)’s health-care unit, were appointed last year. The company conducts its board meetings in English.
Dunsire’s “success will depend on how that boardroom culture evolves and the appetite for disagreement and creative thinking for moving beyond the comfortable existing practices,” Taylor said.
There’s a limit to the influence external directors can realistically be expected to have because the fundamental of Japanese corporate governance hasn’t changed much yet, Taylor said.
Takeda, which traces its origins to a medicine wholesale business opened in Osaka in 1781, had only Japanese board members until 2009.
Takeda declined 0.6 percent to 3,475 yen at the close in Tokyo trading. The stock has gained 2.8 percent this year.
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