Takeda’s Weber Wins Board Seat Amid Opposition to Foreign CEO

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s shareholders elected Christophe Weber to the board at their annual meeting, bringing him closer to becoming the first non-Japanese head of the more than 230-year-old drugmaker.

Weber joined Takeda in April as chief operating officer and is slated to succeed CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa next year. The role of CEO would put the French national among the few international executives to lead a Japanese company.

Weber’s appointment to the board comes after a group of about 112 former employees and investors expressed their opposition to the planned appointment of a foreign chief executive officer. Yujiro Hara, 84, a shareholder and former employee said today that he and other members of the group questioned management at the meeting about international appointments at the company.

“I want Takeda to grow and expand as a Japanese company,” Hara said. “That will lead to the national benefit.”

The opposing group holds only 1 to 2 percent of Takeda shares, the Yomiuri newspaper reported earlier this month.

Takeda fell 0.5 percent to 4,683 yen as of the close in Tokyo trading today. The stock has declined 2.9 percent this year, compared with a 3.8 percent drop in the Topix index.

While Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn has been credited with turning around the carmaker, some other top executives from overseas have struggled to fit into Japan’s management culture. In 2012, Craig Naylor resigned as CEO of Tokyo-based Nippon Sheet Glass Co., citing a clash with the board. While as a non-Japanese, Weber follows a path trod by Ghosn and Howard Stringer, the former Sony Corp. president, the latter were promoted from within. Stringer stepped down in 2012 after overseeing four straight annual losses.

Takeda, which traces its origins to a medicine wholesale business opened in Osaka in 1781, had only Japanese board members until 2009. Weber, a 20-year Glaxo veteran, was previously the president of its vaccine division in Belgium.