Roche lands Lufthansa CEO to take over chairman's job

Christoph Franz

When Novartis needed a new chairman this year, it chose a pharma executive for the job. Roche, its crosstown rival, is flying in a different direction. The Swiss drugmaker ($RHHBY) picked Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz to take Franz Humer's seat at the head of its boardroom table.

Franz is something of a surprise pick because he's midway through a restructuring at the German airline. As rumors of his appointment swirled, some analysts pooh-poohed the idea that Franz would leave the company in the lurch. And Lufthansa appeared none too happy at the fact; its press release on Franz's move merely noted that he wouldn't be available for a contract extension when it expires at the end of May.

Then again, Franz isn't an outsider at Roche, either; he has served on its board since 2011, which means he's familiar with the company's inner workings. And, importantly, he has connections in Switzerland; before joining Lufthansa, he was CEO of Swiss International Air Lines. He still has residency in Zurich. As one analyst noted, what he doesn't have is extensive experience in the pharma business.

In a statement, Humer touted his replacement's "outstanding personal qualities" and "impressive record" as CEO of a multinational company--and noted Franz's "strong links to Switzerland." Franz himself emphasized his existing links to Roche. "As a board member I have had ample opportunity to get to know and admire its strong business performance and corporate culture," he said. "Strategically, Roche is in very good shape."

Franz will stand for election as chairman at Roche's annual meeting in March 2014. Humer announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. 

- see the release from Roche
- get more from Reuters
here's FierceMedicalDevices' take

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