Lonza's CEO reshuffle continues with the 'abrupt' departure of Pierre-Alain Ruffieux

For the third time in the last four years, Lonza is seeking a new CEO. The Swiss CDMO on Monday said Pierre-Alain Ruffieux will step down at the end of this month by “mutual agreement.”

Chairman Albert Baehny will step in from the bullpen, taking over as interim CEO for the second time since 2020.

Ruffieux departs after serving less than three years. He was hired from Roche in late 2020, with the company hoping he would bring stability to the post. In 2019, Lonza announced the sudden retirement of CEO Richard Ridinger and the promotion of chief operating officer of the pharma and biotech division, Marc Funk, who lasted just nine months in the job.

With the news, Lonza’s share price tumbled 13%, from $55.49 at close of the market on Friday to $48.10 on Monday morning.

"Lonza has given limited detail on what prompted the abrupt CEO change, leaving us feeling incrementally worse about the company’s near-term outlook," William Blair analyst Max Smock wrote in a note to clients. "Investors clearly share this sentiment, with the stock trading down."

During the pandemic—with Lonza pumping out COVID-19 vaccines for Moderna—its share price swelled from $33.40 to $83.50 by the end of 2021. Since then, however, the price has been in decline.

“While recent months have undoubtedly been challenging, the company is a global leader in our industry and has many opportunities for further growth across all our businesses,” Baehny said in the release.

Lonza said it will lay out its medium-term strategy and outlook at a capital markets day next month in Visp, Switzerland.

In 2021, Ruffieux oversaw Lonza’s $4.7 billion sale of its specialty ingredients business to Bain Capital and Cinven. The divestment was designed to allow Lonza to become a “pure-play partner to the healthcare industry,” the company said at the time.

In July, Lonza cut its annual sales growth forecast from a high single-digit figure to a mid-to-high single-digit estimate.

"Monday’s news is not entirely surprising," Smock wrote. "In our view, the announcement is emblematic of the challenges the broader bioprocessing space has had navigating the post-COVID environment."