Billionaire Carl Icahn is at it again. Icahn, who has a history of engineering board takeovers and initiating corporate sales at the corporations in which he invests, now has focused his efforts squarely on the Genzyme board.
Various media outlets are reporting that Icahn plans to nominate four new board members, including himself, when Genzyme’s nine director seats open up for election at the 2010 annual meeting scheduled for May. This move would allow parties friendly to Icahn to control just under 50% of the Genzyme board.
What accounts for Icahn’s new interest in assuming control of the Genzyme board?
First of all, as Mass High Tech reported, Icahn owns 4.8 million shares, which as of December, 2009, amounted to just under 2 percent of Genzyme. This obviously is enough of a stake in the company to have a strong interest in its future.
Second of all, as Fierce Biotech reported, Genzyme has recently been plagued by some fairly serious problems, and Icahn seems to have lost confidence in the leadership of the company. Its Allston Landing facility in Boston has suffered a series of setbacks resulting in shortages of Genzyme’s durgs Cerezyme and Fabrazyme. Moreover, Shire and Protalix are close now to finalizing development of several competing drugs, which will likely give those companies the opportunity to take over a significant portion of Genzyme’s existing market share.
According to Reuters, Genzyme has taken actions lately designed to fend off an Icahn move and to address investor sentiment generally, but it may very well be “too little too late.”
[Genzyme] recently announced an overhaul of its compensation system and added Robert Bertolini, previously chief financial officer at drugmaker Schering-Plough Corp, to its board.
The company also hired new managers to oversee quality control and agreed to appoint Ralph Whitworth of Relational Investors, another activist shareholder, to its board. In return, Whitworth agreed to support Genzyme’s slate of nominees.
So what is next for Genzyme? It seems likely that some significant changes are in its future.
The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to watch this story and keep you posted.
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