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Exclusive: Sanofi says working on CEO succession plan

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Sanofi is pictured during the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

By Matthias Blamont

PARIS (Reuters) - Pharmaceuticals group Sanofi is working on a plan to find a new CEO in agreement and consultation with current chief executive Olivier Brandicourt, a spokesman for the French drugmaker told Reuters on Monday.

Sanofi has an age limit of 65 for its CEO. Brandicourt will be 65 in February 2021.

"It is the responsibility of any company's board of directors to consider and plan for the succession of its CEO and executive committee members by identifying the next set of future leaders," a spokesman told Reuters.

"With this perspective, the board has been considering this succession plan for some time now, in agreement and consultation with our CEO," he said, without elaborating on a specific time frame.

Sources told Reuters talks over the future of the group's management had intensified in recent weeks.

Sanofi is to hold an annual meeting next month during which shareholders will be asked to vote to renew the mandate of the board's chairman, Serge Weinberg.

Brandicourt was hired in 2015 to help revive the fortunes of France's biggest drugmaker and has been actively reshaping the business. He was previously the head of Bayer's healthcare arm.

Under his management, the company swapped its animal health unit to Boehringer Ingelheim in exchange for the German firm’s consumer healthcare operations in a $20 billion deal. It has also sold its European generics arm for 1.9 billion euros ($2.15 billion) to private equity firm Advent International.

New launches such as eczema treatment Dupixent, cost cutting and new priorities setting in research and development have also enabled Sanofi to return to profits in the second half of last year after a series of disappointing quarters due to falling diabetes sales.

Brandicourt's teams failed to land two strategic acquisitions, loosing out on buying California-based cancer specialist Medivation to Pfizer in 2016, and failing to snatch up Swiss biotech company Actelion, which was bought by Johnson & Johnson in 2017.

But the company regained momentum last year with the purchase of Belgian biotech company Ablynx for 3.9 billion euros. That followed the acquisition of U.S. group Bioverativ for $11.6 billion, its biggest deal for seven years.

Brandicourt hopes the two transactions will help Sanofi build a strong franchise in rare blood disorders.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ablynx's most promising asset, the experimental drug caplacizumab for treating the blood disease Acquired Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.

Sanofi has made rare diseases a top priority since it bought Massachusetts biotech firm Genzyme in 2011.


(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)