Longtime Stada Chief to Depart Drugmaker After Medical Leave

  • German company has been under pressure from activist investor
  • Stada’s Retzlaff steps down due to ‘personal circumstances’

Stada Arzneimittel AG, the German generic-drug maker that has faced pressure from an activist investor, said longtime leader Hartmut Retzlaff has resigned after going on leave in June to deal with a serious, long-term illness.

Retzlaff, Stada’s chief executive officer of 23 years, resigned due to “personal circumstances,” the company said Monday in a statement. The company agreed to pay severance to the 62-year-old executive as well as salary until Dec. 31. Stada said in June that Matthias Wiedenfels, who has led corporate development since 2013, was taking on the CEO title following Retzlaff’s illness.

Stada has come under renewed pressure from investor Active Ownership Capital Sarl for an overhaul of the German company’s supervisory board. The drugmaker brought forward plans in May to renew its supervisory board by two years after it was urged by Active Ownership to make such changes. Stada postponed its annual meeting to Aug. 26 and proposed replacing three board members.

“The central question is now whether activists can push through a completely new membership for the Stada supervisory board at the coming shareholder meeting,” Thomas Maul, a Frankfurt-based analyst for DZ Bank AG, said in a note to investors.

A spokesman for the chairman of Stada’s supervisory board confirmed that it aims to enlarge Stada’s management board to four members from three after Retzlaff’s departure. The proposed expansion was first reported by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Stada rose 0.6 percent to 50.42 euros at the close of German trading. The stock has gained 35 percent this year.

The company hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to advise on strategy and relations with shareholders, people familiar with the matter said in June. The U.S. investment bank was providing advice on a range of issues including relations with its top shareholders and defense against a possible takeover bid, said the people.

Stada earlier this year rejected a proposal by Poland’s Polpharma SA to merge the two companies, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing unnamed sources. Spokespeople for Stada and Polpharma declined to comment on the report.

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