Roche Chairman Humer Says He’ll Retire in 2014

Roche Holding AG Chairman Franz Humer said he won’t stand for re-election next year, ending more than a decade of leadership of the world’s biggest maker of cancer medicines.

A successor to Humer, 66, will be nominated in the fall and will also be a non-executive chairman, maintaining the company’s split between that office and that of the chief executive officer, the company said in an e-mailed statement today.

His departure means Europe’s two biggest drugmakers will replace influential chairmen in the course of a year after Novartis AG Chairman Daniel Vasella stepped down last month. Humer is credited as an architect of Roche’s strategy of yoking its diagnostics and drugs units together to create medicines targeted at individual patients.

“That is the basis for our success today and in the future as well,” Andre Hoffmann, a spokesman for the Roche family shareholders’ voting pool, said today at the Basel, Switzerland-based company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Humer told shareholders it was important for him to set his own departure date. Roche CEO Severin Schwan was voted onto the company’s supervisory board today.

New Ideas

“New leaders bring new ideas,” Humer said. “Roche is in excellent shape and well positioned to meet future challenges. This is a good time to hand over to a successor. I am looking forward to the next 12 months, and I intend to perform my duties as chairman with enthusiasm and drive.”

Humer was CEO when Roche bought a 30 percent stake in U.S. biotechnology company Genentech Inc. in 1999 and helped oversee the full takeover of the company as chairman in 2009. The deals netted Roche its top-selling cancer medicines Rituxan and Herceptin. The latter, a breast cancer drug, was the company’s first “personalized” tumor treatment, with a diagnostic test to show which women it is likely to help.

Roche spokesman Alexander Klauser declined to comment on the qualities the company is looking for in Humer’s successor.

Humer, a former executive at Schering-Plough Corp. and Glaxo Holdings Plc, joined Roche in 1995, according to the company’s website. He became CEO in 1998, and added the title of chairman in 2001. Schwan succeeded him as chief executive in 2008.

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