With executive shakeup and new pharma unit, Bayer's overhaul takes shape

Early this month at an investor event, Bayer CEO Bill Anderson—the agent for reform of the troubled company—declared that employees “are ready for change. They’re saying bring it on.”

On Wednesday, Anderson answered the call with a revamp of the company’s leadership team, which is being reduced from 14 members to eight.

In the pharma sector, Bayer revealed a new Global Commercialization unit, which will be led by Christine Roth, who moves up from her former post as the head of oncology.

The company also tabbed Sebastian Guth as its chief operating officer. Both will continue to answer to six-year pharma president Stefan Oelrich.

Among those leaving the company are global marketing chief Anne-Grethe Mortensen, radiology head Gerd Kruger and consumer heath division president Heiko Schipper, a company spokesperson said. 

Moving into Schipper's slot as president of consumer health will be Julio Triana, who currently serves as the head of international commercial operations.

Bayer is “reshaping its executive leadership team to become more mission-centric and value focused,” the company said in a release. The changes are part of Anderson’s “radical realignment” plan, as he put it during a quarterly call in November of last year, five months after he took over as CEO.

“We have decided to dismantle our traditional model with functional silos and many layers of hierarchy. We are replacing it with our new operating model, which has product and customer teams at its center,” Oelrich said in Wednesday’s release.

The moves come on top of sweeping changes in Bayer’s crop science division, which were revealed in January with the departure of three execs who had been with the company for at least 27 years.

Guth, who has been president of Bayer U.S. for the last nine months, will remain in America to help the company “substantially grow in the U.S. market,” Bayer said. He takes his new post on April 1.

Meanwhile, as chief of global commercialization, Roth will oversee major parts of the company’s former strategic oncology, marketing, and medical affairs and pharmacovigilance units. Roth took over as oncology chief in February 2022. She takes on her new post June 1.

Remaining in place in the pharma sector will be R&D chief Christian Rommel, Ph.D., while Holger Weintritt will continue as the head of product supply. Also remaining on the leadership team will be Oliver Renner (communications), Ursula Koeniger (legal) and Christoph Bertram (HR).

Chief medical officer Michael Devoy, chief financial officer Oliver Bressier and China commercial operations head Xiaolan Zhou will remain in their posts but will not be part of the leadership team, the Bayer spokesperson confirmed.

The changes are part of Anderson’s effort to streamline the company’s management structure. The reorganization will include “a significant reduction in workforce,” he said in November.  

“The problem at Bayer is not the culture—it’s the bureaucracy, it’s the layers, it’s the approvals,” Anderson said earlier this month. “You can have all the positive culture you want, but if it takes five signatures to replace a pump in the plant, then the culture is not going to save you. This is the phenomenon we face at Bayer.”

Bayer is still digging out from its disastrous $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018, which brought with it legal claims, now numbering in the tens of thousands, that weedkiller Roundup causes cancer.

Last month, Anderson said that the company would slash investor dividends to the legal minimum over the next three years to address the company’s debt, which totaled (PDF) 34.5 billion euros ($37.5 billion) at the start of the year.

There has been investor pressure for Bayer to separate its business sectors. In weighing the move, Anderson said earlier this month that the company doesn’t have the “strategic flexibility” to make it happen for at least another two years.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional information about Bayer's executive changes.