GSK's Viehbacher picked as Sanofi CEO

When GlaxoSmithKline's Chris Viehbacher (photo) announced his plans to leave the company, everyone wondered where he would head next. Apparently it's in the CEO spot at another company--the spot he was passed over for at GSK. Well, GSK's loss is Sanofi-Aventis' gain. As of December 1, Viehbacher will replace Gerard Le Fur as CEO.

Insiders are saying that Le Fur--who has headed Sanofi for less than two years--is being ousted as a result of his clashes with Sanofi's chairman, Jean-Francois Dehecq, who has played a pivotal role in Sanofi's biggest deals and successes over the past 30 years and holds more influence at the company. Le Fur will remain on to work in scientific areas within the group.

"The evolution of the worldwide pharmaceutical sector requires the key players to acutely redefine their strategy," Sanofi said in a statement.

Analysts and Sanofi shareholders, including oil giant Total and comestics group L'Oreal, believe the change will invigorate the company, whose reputation and stocks have not been doing so well over the past few years. Around this time last year, Total had been looking to offload its 13 percent stake and shares soared on rumors that a sell to Pfizer would lead to a buyout. Will Total stick around now that Viehbacher is at the helm?

Sanofi shares shot up 7 percent on the news, after a 22 percent drop over the past year as a result of setbacks in its pipeline.

- view the Sanofi-Aventis release
- check out the Financial Times article