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Sanofi's Leadership Transition: What You Need To Know

Shanthi Rexaline

With big pharma companies grappling with fundamental as well as geopolitical issues — including aging pipelines, key blockbuster drugs going off patent and a U.S. clampdown on drug pricing — many have turned to new leadership in recent years to reinvigorate growth.

French pharma giant Sanofi SA (NASDAQ: SNY) confirmed speculation Friday that former Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) executive Paul Hudson will assume office as CEO effective Sept. 1, taking over from Olivier Brandicourt, who is retiring. 

Sanofi has a mandatory 65-year-old retirement age for its CEO.

The Swiss company Novartis confirmed Friday that Hudson, who was president of its pharmaceutical business and a member of Novartis' executive committee, would depart to take the CEO role at a multinational pharma company. 

Marie-France Tschudin, who is currently Novartis' president of advanced accelerator applications, will take over from Hudson, the company said.

A Veteran Pharma Exec

Hudson, 51, has 28 years of experience at big pharma companies like Schering-Plough, which has since been acquired by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK); AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN); and Novartis.

He has strong international experience, especially in the U.S., Japan and Europe, and a proven track record in successful product launches.

At Novartis, Hudson oversaw the launch of the psoriasis treatment Cosentyx in 2016, which is the company's bestselling drug.

Hudson is also credited with having the ability to overcome great challenges, particularly in innovation and digital transformation, according to Sanofi. 

"His skills and experience give him all the assets he needs to accelerate growth and lead the Group's adaptation to new strategic challenges, particularly in the areas of Research and Development and digital," Sege Weinberg, chairman of the board of Sanofi, said in a statement. 

Sanofi invariably goes with native French candidates for the executive leadership role, although Brandicourt took over the reins from Chris Viehbacher, a German-Canadian citizen.

Incidentally, he was ousted in 2014 due to clashes with the board over leadership style.

Hudson is a U.K. pharma executive.

Sanofi At A Crossroads

Hudson joins at a time when Sanofi is playing catchup with peers that have come out with breakthrough lucrative oncology drugs and forayed into the up-and-coming gene therapy arena.

The company's key diabetes drugs have lost patents, denting its top-line.

Sanofi has already taken steps to infuse fresh talent. It appointed Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon as CFO in June 2018, and John Reed as global head of R&D in April 2018. 

The Street cheered Hudson's appointment by sending Sanofi's stock to its highest level since late March and its biggest one-day gain since October. The stock was up 5.44 percent at $44.19 at the time of publication Friday. 

Novartis shares were also advancing, adding 0.56 percent to $88.15. 

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Photo by Dustin Blitchok. 

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