Takeda taken to task for hiring so many 'foreigners'

CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa's efforts to make Takeda a globally focused company with more international sales has drawn attention, particularly when he hired a non-Japanese executive into a position that could potentially succeed him. But the idea that the 230-year-old Japanese company could be run by a "foreigner" has a group of former executives angry and they are letting the board know it.

The 110 former execs and shareholders, headed by Yujiro Hara, a previous head of Takeda's real estate subsidiary, expressed their concern in a letter, the Financial Times reports. "The company's globalization is a wrong globalization. It should be globalized as a Japanese company," Hara told the newspaper. "Three main executive positions, finance, HR and purchase, are taken by foreigners. We cannot accept it."

In December, Hasegawa hired French national Christophe Weber as chief operating officer, giving him a shot at becoming CEO when Hasegawa is ready to relinquish the position. It is rare in Japan for non-Japanese executives to head a company. Hara told the Financial Times that the group is not opposed to Weber per se but to the trend of hiring non-Japanese employees. "[F]rom the top to the bottom, there are hundreds of non-Japanese working in the company in Japan," he pointed out.

Takeda has turned to a number of outsiders as Hasegawa tries to shake things up and focus the company for global growth. Its chief commercial officer is former Bayer exec Frank Morich. In September, François-Xavier Roger, who had been at Millicom International Cellular, was named chief financial officer. He was given the responsibility of making the drugmaker more efficient while slashing ¥100 billion ($980 million) from its cost structure by 2017. Roger actually pointed to his outsider status as one reason he thought he could succeed. "I'm not a party to the history of any original part of the company, so I don't have any specific interest in trying to protect something that happened in the past," Roger said at the time.

In fact, the Financial Times reports, Hasegawa is a bit of an outsider. He is the first CEO with no personal ties to the founding Takeda family. The company had no comment.

It is a difficult time for Takeda. It diabetes drug Actos brought in more than $3 billion in U.S. sales at its peak and accounted for about 20% of the drugmaker's revenue and half of its sales in the U.S. With generics eating its market share, the drugmaker has said it expects its profits to fall by 40% over a few years. It tried to get ahead of that damage last year by laying off  2,800 people in the U.S. and Europe to preserve margins as much as it was able and then folded Millennium, the U.S. biotech arm it acquired in 2008, into the company's overall operations.

It is not as if Hasegawa is unaware of how these steps will be received by many Japanese. He said so when he hired Weber, cautioning the time of being only a Japanese-run company must end. "We're no longer in an age where decisions are based on whether a person is Japanese or foreign," he said at a press conference. "I expect [Mr. Weber] will lead our global transition while protecting Takeda's good tradition."

- read the Financial Times story (sub. req.)