Takeda Names Glaxo’s Weber as Candidate to Be Next CEO

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Asia’s biggest drugmaker, named GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Christophe Weber as the leading candidate to become its next chief executive officer in a bid to capitalize on the Japanese company’s growing global network.

Weber, 47, a 20-year Glaxo veteran and president of its vaccines division in Belgium, will become Takeda’s chief operating officer by April and president in June subject to approval at a shareholders meeting, the Osaka-based drugmaker said in a statement.

Weber would become the first non-Japanese leader in Takeda’s 230-year history. The company, which traces its origins to a medicine wholesale business opened in Osaka in 1781, has been making acquisitions and hiring senior executives from overseas to globalize its business in recent years.

“We considered the rights and wrongs and internal response of appointing a foreigner to head a company that greatly respects tradition,” Chief Executive Officer Yasuchika Hasegawa said in a briefing in Tokyo today. “Weber resonates with our philosophy. He’s dynamic, yet has sensitivity. I’m confident he’ll lead Takeda’s globalization while following its good traditions.”

Hasegawa said Takeda plans to name Weber as CEO in 2015.

A French national with a doctorate in pharmacy and master’s in finance from the University of Lyon, Weber held Glaxo posts in France, the U.K. and the U.S., and as Asia Pacific regional director based in Singapore, before heading the vaccine unit.

Hasegawa’s Acquisitions

Under Hasegawa, who became president in 2003, Takeda bought Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $8.9 billion yen and Swiss drugmaker Nycomed for 9.6 billion euros ($13.1 billion) to gain new revenue streams as inexpensive generics erode earnings from Actos, its largest sales contributor and once the world’s biggest-selling diabetes medicine.

Takeda must grow in emerging markets, now the source of a majority of growth for the drug industry, using infrastructure gained through the Nycomed acquisition, Hasegawa said. Weber’s job, in addition to running Takeda’s existing business, is to use that network effectively and sell the company’s novel medicines efficiently in those markets, Hasegawa said.

This isn’t the time to be concerned about whether the CEO is Japanese, Hasegawa said. The company must choose talent without regard to age, race, nationality, he said.

‘High Bar’

“We set the bar high and looked internally and externally to find talent,” Hasegawa said, adding that the search took more than a year. “We need global talent in key positions to compete globally.”

Weber will be one of three internal board members Takeda hired from outside of the company in the past five years, following its chief commercial officer Frank Morich, who led Bayer AG’s health-care unit, and its chief medical officer Tachi Yamada, who oversaw Glaxo’s research and development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s health programs.

Takeda in September also hired Francois-Xavier Roger, former chief financial officer at Millicom International Cellular SA, to be its CFO. He’s globalizing its finance unit and pursuing cost-saving plans.

Takeda rose 0.5 percent at 4,975 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday. The stock has gained about 10 percent up until yesterday since Hasegawa became the president in June 2003, after reaching a record of 8,350 yen in June 2007.

The company predicts “mid single-digit” annual revenue growth through 2017 and said operating profit should advance 20 percent or more a year over the same period. It aims to extract 100 billion yen ($978 million) in annual costs by 2017, including reductions in staff numbers.

The drugmaker predicts net income will fall 28 percent to a 14-year low 95 billion yen for the year ending March 2014, on revenue of 1.68 trillion yen.

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