Novartis brings on 8 business vets for Sandoz's new board, including 4 women

Novartis has taken another step toward spinning off its generics and biosimilars business Sandoz, identifying eight of its new board of directors.

The group includes Nestle chief financial officer Francois-Xavier Roger and former Eli Lilly chief information and digital officer Aarti Shah, Ph.D. They are among eight approved by Novartis after being recommended by Gilbert Ghostine, who was designated as Sandoz's chairman of the board three months ago. Ghostine been the CEO of Swiss perfume and taste company Firmenich since 2014.

Other new members of the board—which will begin prep work for the spinoff—include Urs Riedener, formerly the CEO of Swiss dairy company Emmi; Remco Steenbergen, the CFO at Deutsche Lufthansa AG; and Yannis Skoufalos, a former executive at Proctor & Gamble.  

In addition to Shah, the board will have three other women including Shamiram Feinglass, M.D., formerly the VP of medical affairs and policy at Danaher; Maria Varsellona, J.D., the chief legal officer at British consumer goods company Unilever; and Karen Huebscher, Ph.D., a former Novartis exec and CEO at Swiss CDMO Solvia.

An additional unnamed member of the board, who has “deep healthcare and U.S. experience,” has been pre-selected and is up for nomination, Novartis said.

Novartis said that the board will have three subcommittees—one for science, innovation and development; another for human capital and ESG; and the third for audit, risk and compliance.

A separation between Sandoz and Novartis’ pharma business was expected when the group unveiled a strategic review in October 2021. Competition and U.S. pricing pressure have been weighing on Sandoz and the broader generics industry for years. And having a generics business doesn’t really fit CEO Vas Narasimhan's stated focus on innovative drugs. 

The spinoff is set to wrap up later this year.

Novartis had previously tried to sell Sandoz in pieces, specifically a problematic U.S. oral solids franchise, to India’s Aurobindo Pharma. But the two firms abandoned the deal after hitting antitrust resistance.

Last year, Sandoz reportedly attracted buyout interest, including from an investor consortium of Blackstone and Carlyle for up to $25 billion.