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Bayer taps Roche vet Anderson as its next CEO, pushing out Baumann

The calls for a new Bayer CEO have been answered.

Bill Anderson, most recently Roche’s pharmaceutical chief, will become Bayer’s new group CEO starting in June.

Anderson’s installment means Bayer’s current CEO Werner Baumann, who has served the German conglomerate for 35 years, will exit early. Baumann has been Bayer’s helmsman for 7 years and was previously slated to serve in the role through April 2024.

Baumann’s early departure comes amid a fresh wave of investor activism. Several of Bayer’s top shareholders have made their anger with the Bayer CEO public since the Monsanto acquisition in 2018 caused significant losses.

Bayer’s board unanimously backed Anderson after a selection process that began in mid-2022, Bayer said. Calling Anderson “the ideal candidate” for the top job, Bayer Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann praised the former Roche exec’s “outstanding track record of building strong product pipelines and turning biotech breakthroughs into products.”

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

The ex-Roche exec ascends at a critical time for Bayer. The German company is pouring more resources into its pharmaceuticals department amid several key launches. Bayer has recently raised its peak sales projection for heart medication Kerendia and prostate cancer drug Nubeqa to 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) each.

Anderson’s strong pharma background might also trigger fresh speculation of a potential business split at Bayer. A proposal to peel off the consumer health business and a further separation between pharma and agriculture has been a hot topic among activist investors.

During Baumann’s tenure, both Baumann and Winkeljohann have stood by Bayer’s existing corporate structure, arguing that the businesses all belong to one life sciences theme.

For his part, Anderson didn’t hint at any major strategic changes for Bayer. In a Wednesday statement, the incoming CEO said Bayer’s “leading R&D investments in agriculture, medicines and consumer health hold the promise for additional breakthroughs.”