Merck KGaA tasks new CEO Oschmann with company turnaround

Merck KGaA streamlined its healthcare executive team last month after a series of cost-cutting and reorganizational measures. Now, the German company has picked Stefan Oschmann to lead the entire business, tapping him as CEO for the next chapter in its ongoing comeback story.

Stefan Oschmann

Oschmann will assume his position in April 2016, taking the reins from current CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley following his retirement, the company said in a statement. The 58-year-old CEO-to-be joined Merck KGaA's executive board in 2011 after working for more than 20 years at Merck & Co. ($MRK), the German Merck's U.S. rival. Earlier this year, Merck KGaA named Oschmann as deputy CEO and deputy chairman of its board.

"We're … happy to have found a successor in Stefan Oschmann early on, whose strategic foresight and strong leadership have turned Merck KGaA … into a respected player in the pharma industry again," Chairman Johannes Baillou said in a statement. And Merck KGaA is "convinced that (Oschmann) will take the right steps" to support the company's upward march, he added.

Oschmann's appointment follows last month's slate of executive changes at Merck KGaA. The company announced that it would rework top management for its healthcare business, adding a chief operating officer, a chief marketing and strategy officer, and a chief of staff to the team.

"After having successfully restructured our business and rebuilt our pipeline, we are simplifying our organization to focus on driving the growth of our healthcare business," Merck KGaA healthcare chief Belén Garijo said at the time. "With this new organization, we aim to accelerate the delivery of our pipeline in immuno-oncology, immunology and oncology, prepare for new global launches as well as maximize opportunities of our inline portfolio."

Oschmann and the new healthcare team will have their hands full. The German pharma is battling it out in the multibillion-dollar multiple sclerosis market, with meds from Novartis ($NVS), Biogen ($BIIB) and Sanofi ($SNY) eating up market share and threatening Merck KGaA's market leader Rebif. And a forthcoming med from Roche ($RHHBY) recently topped Rebif in two separate clinical trials. In one effort to fight back, the company said last month that it would try again with an experimental MS drug, cladribine, despite its history of regulatory and clinical setbacks.

Merck KGaA has a few other plans to offset the competition as well. The company is looking to emerging markets for growth, with China as a driving force, Bernd Reckmann, head of the company's life science and performance materials unit, said earlier this year.

- read Merck KGaA's statement (PDF)
- here's the MarketWatch story

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