Rooting for a French CEO at Sanofi? Take another name off your list of prospects

Christophe Weber

Another purported Sanofi CEO candidate has publicly knocked himself off the list. Takeda chief operating officer and CEO-in-waiting Christophe Weber says he's not interested in the job. That makes two top pharma execs who've rebuffed the French drugmaker.

In an interview with Reuters, Weber confirmed that Sanofi ($SNY) had approached him about the post, left vacant in October when its board abruptly dismissed former chief Chris Viehbacher. But Weber is invested in his "unique opportunity" at Japan-based Takeda.

"I'm committed to Takeda," Weber told the news service at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I just arrived and I'm not the kind of guy who would jump like that."

AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot apparently brushed off the idea of jumping ship for Sanofi, too. Contacted by Sanofi Chairman Serge Weinberg, Soriot said he wasn't interested, Bloomberg has reported. Soriot took the reins at AstraZeneca in late 2013, and he's in the midst of a campaign to transform the company. Plus, he was instrumental in turning away a buyout offer from Pfizer ($PFE) last spring. And if Sanofi wants a French CEO, it might want to look elsewhere; confronted by the question in public, Soriot claimed to be Australian.

Other candidates bandied about include Smith & Nephew ($SNN) CEO Olivier Bohuon, Bayer HealthCare chief Olivier Brandicourt, and Eric Cornut, chief ethics officer at Novartis ($NVS). All three either are French or have ties to France. Weinberg has said that Sanofi's search committee isn't limiting itself to French candidates, but market-watchers figure the company's board would be most comfortable with that sort of match. Industry analysts, on the other hand, contend that Sanofi needs to look outside its comfort zone for a Viehbacher replacement.

Some pharma analysts see Bohuon as a solid prospect, given his experience at French pharma and cosmetics company Pierre Fabre and his success at moving Smith & Nephew into new markets. Plus, Bohuon could find himself out of a job this year if his company finally attracts a buyout bid from Stryker ($SYK). A perennial entry on the list of takeover targets in medical devices, Smith & Nephew saw shares rise in late December on rumors of a Stryker offer. But Bohuon himself has said he's happy in his current job, and company insiders maintain that he has no interest in moving to Sanofi.

- read the Reuters piece

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