* Genzyme nominates Dennis Fenton to its board
* Fenton is former executive at Amgen Inc
* Fenton recommended by Relational Investors
* Genzyme’s shares up 0.6 pct in early trading
By Toni Clarke
The nomination is part of an agreement announced in April with Ralph Whitworth of Relational Investors, one of Genzyme’s biggest shareholders, under which Relational would recommend an independent director with expertise in biologic manufacturing operations.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Genzyme has come under intense shareholder pressure, including from Carl Icahn, who has nominated himself and three allies to the company’s board following a manufacturing crisis that led to shortages of two of Genzyme’s drugs for rare diseases.
Genzyme named Whitworth, a less openly aggressive activist than Icahn, to its board in the hope of diluting Icahn’s support. And there are signs the strategy is working. Last week proxy advisory firm Proxy Governance Inc recommended shareholders support Genzyme’s slate of nominees at the company’s annual meeting on June 16.
“The dissidents have identified compelling concerns about the board’s insufficient attention to the consequences for shareholders of a weak portfolio strategy, poor capital allocation and expense control, and weak oversight of operating risk,” Proxy Governance said in its report. “We recognize, however, that the critique is dated -- over the past 19 months the board has taken a number of significant, well-targeted, and relatively transparent actions to address these issues.”
Proxy Governance is one of three proxy advisory firms scheduled to issue recommendations to shareholders.
Fenton, 58, was formerly vice president of operations at Amgen, the world’s biggest biotechnology company. He retired in 2008 after 25 years in which he developed wide experience in operations, manufacturing, engineering, process development, quality, sales and marketing, research and information management.
Genzyme’s chief executive, Henri Termeer, said he believes Fenton’s experience will bring “the precise type of expertise that we need right now.”
Genzyme’s board currently has 10 members, all of whom are standing for re-election. The company said it anticipates the board will vote to expand to 11 members and Fenton will fill the new seat after the annual meeting.
The company’s shares rose 0.6 percent in early trading to $48.03. (Reporting by Toni Clarke, editing by Dave Zimmerman)