June 6, 2019 / 10:09 PM / 20 days ago

Exclusive: Sanofi poised to appoint Novartis' Hudson as CEO

PARIS (Reuters) - Sanofi is poised to appoint Paul Hudson, a top executive with Switzerland’s Novartis, to become the French drugmaker’s next CEO from Sept. 1, a source familiar with the decision told Reuters on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Sanofi's Chief Executive Officer Olivier Brandicourt attends the company's shareholders meeting in Paris, France, May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Current Sanofi SA CEO Olivier Brandicourt will leave the company to retire, said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“Hudson has been chosen because of his reputation. He is known as a solid manager and has an expertise in digital relating to pharmaceuticals,” the source said.

A spokeswoman with Sanofi had no comment.

Officials at Novartis AG could not be reached for comment.

Reuters had reported on March 18 Sanofi was working to find a successor to Brandicourt.

Hudson, born in 1967 according to Novartis’ website, has been CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals unit since 2016. He is a member of Novartis’ executive committee.

According to his corporate biography, Hudson joined Novartis from AstraZeneca Plc where he held several senior positions in Japan and the United States.

Back in March, sources had told Reuters talks over the future of Sanofi’s management were intensifying. The group has an age limit of 65 for its CEO and Brandicourt will be 65 in February 2021.

Brandicourt was hired in 2015 to help revive the fortunes of France’s biggest drugmaker and has been actively reshaping the business since.

Under his tenure, 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 ($2.14 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, however, failed to land two strategic acquisitions, losing 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 Sanofi regained some momentum last year with the purchase of Belgian biotech company Ablynx for 3.9 billion euros. That followed the acquisition of U.S. hemophilia specialist Bioverativ for $11.6 billion, its biggest deal for seven years.

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

In February, 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 Lisa Shumaker

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