Werner Baumann takes top Bayer job May 1 as Marijn Dekkers exits

Werner Baumann

Werner Baumann has been named to the top spot at Germany's Bayer and will succeed Marijn Dekkers on May 1. With Baumann's dealmaking experience, the move sets the stage for more change at a company that Dekkers has crafted in the last 7 years to be more nimble, while focusing it on life sciences.

The Bayer board announced today that the Baumann, a 28-year veteran of the company, takes over as chairman of Bayer's board of management after the Leverkusen-based company's April 30 annual meeting. Dekkers said nearly two years ago that he would leave by the end of 2016.

"With its clear focus on the Life Science businesses and its new organizational structure, Bayer is in a position of strength. The course for successful future development has already been set at all levels," Dekkers said in a statement. "Also with a successor from within the company there will be no need for a familiarization period."

While Baumann, 53, has worked with the CEO during Dekkers' tenure, and like his predecessor has experience in the U.S., sources tell Reuters he has his own ideas about the future of the company. He is likely to build on what Dekkers has begun, with a focus on healthcare, but use his dealmaking experience to diversify into more nonpharma areas, they say, a la Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ).

Baumann has been deeply involved in Bayer's acquisitions in recent years, including its 2006 buyout of Schering and its $14.2 billion acquisition of the Merck & Co. ($MRK) consumer health unit two years ago.

Investment bankers also told Reuters that while he is introverted and unpretentious, Baumann knows how to do deals. "Werner Baumann shouldn't be underestimated," one banker told the news service. "He won't hesitate to do a deal if it fits."

And there are deals that many think are ripe for him to dive into to build on Bayer's current standing. Buying animal health leader Zoetis ($ZTS) would put Bayer on top in that piece of the industry instead of in the also ran category where it now sits. It could add to its consumer health holdings by picking up Pfizer's ($PFE) consumer health business if comes on the market like some think it will.

But there are lots of other areas that might intrigue Baumann. A couple of months ago, Bayer signed a $335 agreement to create a joint venture with Cambridge, MA-based CRISPR Therapeutics, part of a small cadre of gene editing startups working to radically change the way disease is treated by altering the genes involved in disease. It also is trying to catch up to rivals in oncology where it has been on the sidelines while competitors have made strides in immuno-oncology. It now has 17 candidates under development.

And there are other nonpharma issues for Baumann to address, like the challenge to Bayer's pesticides and seeds unit posed by the planned merger of DuPont ($DD) and Dow Chemical ($DOW.WD).

Meanwhile, in pharma at least, it is looking to strong performances from its top 5 drugs, including new-age anticoagulant Xarelto, eye med Eylea, cancer drugs Stivarga and Xofigo, and pulmonary arterial hypertension treatment Adempas, to bolster sales.

- read the announcement
- more from Reuters

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