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CEO-hunting Sanofi tried to tempt AstraZeneca’s Soriot: Bloomberg

October 30, 2014
Life sciences
Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson figures Sanofi would do well to look outside the company for its new CEO, like AstraZeneca did with its new-ish chief, Pascal Soriot. Well, Sanofi had a more literal view: The French drugmaker has contacted Soriot himself.
 
Sanofi’s board sacked CEO Chris Viehbacher Wednesday, ending an 8-year tenure full of buyouts, job cuts, international expansion and R&D restructuring. Apparently, that tenure also included conflict with the board, at least in recent months. Chairman Serge Weinberg said the board wants to work more closely and cooperatively with a CEO; Weinberg has been casting about for a potential replacement since early September at least.
 
As Bloomberg reports, Sanofi’s board approached Soriot to see if he might be interested in the job. According to the news service’s sources, Soriot wasn’t.
 
Soriot joined AstraZeneca in 2012  from Roche, where he ran the Swiss drugmaker’s pharma division. He has his hands full at AstraZeneca, which has been struggling to replace revenue lost to generic competition, particularly for its antipsychotic drug Seroquel. Like Viehbacher, he has made a series of deals designed to restock the company’s pipeline and rolled out a restructuring with thousands of job cuts. Unlike Viehbacher, Soriot had to contend with a hostile bid from Pfizer, which gave up its takeover quest in May–at least temporarily.
 
That Sanofi would reach out to Soriot might soothe investors and analysts worried that Sanofi will return to its insular, France-centric ways. But then again, Soriot is French–and as Bloomberg points out, he worked at Aventis before his career at Roche. Sanofi’s previous moniker was Sanofi-Aventis, of course, which means Soriot has been in the family.
 
Another potential CEO, according to Bloomberg’s sources, is Smith & Nephew chief Olivier Bohuon, who’s also French, with stints at the France-based drugmaker Pierre Fabre, as well as U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories and U.K. drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. Then there’s Roch Doliveux, who’s leaving the Belgian drugmaker UCB as of Jan. 1, the news service’s sources said.
 
By Tracy Staton
 

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