Boehringer Ingelheim picks family member to lead it through tough times

Boehringer Ingelheim is going back to the future, picking a member of the founding family as CEO for the first time in a quarter of a century to help it through its lean times. The drugmaker announced today that Hubertus von Baumbach, a great-grandson of founder Albert Boehringer, would take over when its current leader, Andreas Barner, steps out of that role next year.

Baumbach, who is currently chief financial officer, has been named Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors, and will assume the top role in June of next year. He has been a member of the board since 2009. Barner will remain on the board. Christian Boehringer said the decision to promote Baumbach "provided a successor who would ensure continuity whilst also looking to the future."

The move comes as Germany's second largest drugmaker has been dealing with patent losses and pricing pressures that have led to lay off workers and unload assets. After seeing revenues fall in 2014, the privately held drugmaker reported flat pharma sales on currency adjusted terms for the half of 2015. It said that it expects only single digit sales growth for the year. Total revenues for its H1 were €7.5 billion ($8 billion).

The company announced layoffs of about 900 last year as it strove to cut costs by 15% in face of difficult sales as it lost patent protection for its blockbuster hypertension drug Micardis. Then this summer it announced it would sell its U.S. generics operation, Roxane Labs to Jordan's Hikma Pharmaceuticals for $2.65 billion, saying it needed to focus on drug development and branded drug sales.

It did get a win in that arena last month when the FDA approved the company's Praxbind, a reversal agent for patients taking the drugmaker's clot-fighter Pradaxa. That approval may help Boehringer pick up ground against Xarelto, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer med, which won FDA approval after Pradaxa but which has since eclipsed the market's No. 1 spot.

The respiratory veteran also is pinning its hopes on a pair of lung drugs, Ofev, an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment, and Spiolto, its COPD combo of BI's Spiriva and another drug. Spiriva, its bestselling drug, is already feeling the burn from payers as it prepares to go off patent. Sales of the drug--which will lose its IP shield in the U.S. in 2018 and in the EU next year--took an 8.1% tumble last year on increasing competitive pressure in the respiratory market.

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Special Report: The largest biopharma layoffs of 2014 - Boehringer Ingelheim