GERMANY — Bayer Pharmaceuticals has named veteran pharmaceutical executive Bill Anderson to replace current CEO Werner Baumann as its next CEO, shaking up the company’s leadership as it tries to fend off activist investors.

In announcing Anderson’s appointment, Bayer said the incoming CEO was “elected unanimously after a thorough selection process” that began in the middle of last year.

He joins Bayer as a member of the board of management on April 1 and will work through the transition with Baumann, who retires from the drugmaker after 35 years at the end of May.

Anderson joins the company from Roche, where he led the pharmaceuticals unit since 2019, before stepping down from his role at the end of last year.

Roche, which is undergoing a CEO change of its own, recently promoted Teresa Graham to replace Anderson as head of Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Bayer has been under increasing pressure from investors dissatisfied with the company’s performance, including calls to split the company’s business, which includes pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and agricultural products.

Shares have lost roughly one-third of their value over the last five years, during which Bayer has been hampered by litigation related to products acquired through its 2018 acquisition of seed maker Monsanto.

Anderson, as an outside candidate, represents a change in management for Bayer, which has been led for the past seven years by company veteran Baumann.

He is also an experienced drug developer, having led Roche’s Genentech unit before being promoted to take over as head of the Swiss company’s pharmaceuticals division from Daniel O’Day. Anderson previously held various positions at Biogen.

Anderson oversaw the development and growth of a crop of new medicines that the drugmaker expects to replace once-top-selling cancer medicines Herceptin, Avastin, and Rituxan as CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals.

According to Bayer, Anderson was involved in the development and launch of 25 new medicines, including 15 blockbusters.

The ex-Roche executive joins Bayer at a critical juncture. In the midst of several major launches, the German company is increasing its investment in its pharmaceuticals division.

Bayer recently increased its peak sales projections for Kerendia, a heart medication, and Nubeqa, a prostate cancer drug, to 3 billion euros (US$3.2 billion).

In mid-January, activist investor Bluebell Capital was said to have bought an undisclosed stake in the company to pursue a breakup of Bayer’s pharma and crop science units.

Bluebell also wants Bayer to follow an industry trend and separate its pharma business from its less profitable consumer health division.

Whatever happens in the meantime, Bayer investors will have a chance to weigh in at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on April 28.

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