Wednesday 25 April 2018

Activist investor reveals candidates for Elan board

John Mulligan

Danish activist investor Ib Sonderby yesterday unveiled his slate of four candidates for the board of Irish drug company Elan, naming the founder of the pharmaceutical firm that originally developed Elan's blockbuster multiple sclerosis treatment, Tysabri, as one of the executives he'd like to see steering the firm.

Mr Sonderby, who for a number of months has been running a campaign that he says aims to tackle perceived corporate governance and strategy issues at Elan, said Larry Fritz, who founded Athena Neurosciences, was one of the four proposed directors he believed could improve shareholder value.

The other three candidates revealed by Mr Sonderby included Jens Bager, president and chief executive of Alk-Abello -- a Danish marketer and developer of pharmaceutical products for the diagnosis and treatment of allergies -- and Torbjorn Bjerke, who is the outgoing chief executive of publicly listed Swedish pharmaceutical firm Orexo and previously worked for AstraZeneca.

Mr Bjerke has also recently been appointed chief executive of Karolinska Development, a Swedish private company that manages one of the largest portfolios of life-sciences companies in Europe.

Its portfolio includes about 35 drug development firms and it aims to become listed on the stock market.


The fourth candidate proposed by Mr Sonderby was American Michael Heffernan, chief executive of US-based Collegium Pharmaceutcials, a company he co-founded.

Mr Fritz told investors he never worked for Elan, having left Athena Neurosciences prior to its 1996 acquisition by the Irish firm for $602m (€480m at the time) in stock.

Mr Sonderby said that he had not yet received any invitation to meet the Elan board to discuss a number of issues he had raised, or to meet the board regarding his candidates.

The drug company issued a statement saying it always appreciated investor feedback.

"The nominating and governance committee of Elan's board of directors will take the names of all proposed candidates for our board under advisement," the company said.

Mr Sonderby declined to say whether he believed Elan chief executive Kelly Martin should resign from the company prior to the 2012 deadline the CEO set for himself earlier this year.

Mr Sonderby also said he did not believe it would be appropriate to initiate dialogue with two non-executive Elan directors who have been labelled dissidents by Mr Martin.

The US-based directors -- industry veterans Jack Schuler and Vaughn Bryson -- were thwarted in an attempt to initiate a parallel investigation into corporate governance issues at the drug company as Elan itself awaits the outcome of an independent review it commissioned in May.

Irish Independent

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