French pharma group Sanofi confirmed Friday it has appointed Olivier Brandicourt to be its new chief executive, four months after firing his widely-respected predecessor Chris Viehbacher.
Paris-educated and a French citizen, Brandicourt is seen as being more likely to avoid the kind of cultural clashes that ultimately led to the ouster of the German-Canadian Viehbacher in October. Sanofi’s board had accused Viehbacher of going behind its back with a plan for mass lay-offs in France–a politically explosive move for one of the country’s biggest employers.
Brandicourt also has extensive international experience, notably in the U.S., where Sanofi makes a third of its sales. He is currently head of German giant Bayer AG’s global health-care business, but spent much of his career at Pfizer Inc. He only moved to Bayer 17 months ago. Bayer has named Werner Baumann as Brandicourt’s successor at its health-care unit.
Despite a challenging outlook, Sanofi’s shares are testing new record highs, having more than recovered the losses that followed Viehbacher’s departure. Viehbacher had been forced out after warning that its key diabetes segment wouldn’t grow this year due to pressure from competition and to the fact that Lantus, its flagship diabetes drug, will lose patent protection in the U.S. this year.
By Geoffrey Smith