Bayer CEO Baumann Headed for early Exit?
Citing confidential sources, the news agency said supervisory board chairman Norbert Winkeljohann is interviewing internal and external candidates for the top position at the German pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals group and hopes to present the board’s choice to shareholders at the next annual general meeting in April 2023.
Though Baumann’s contract is not due to expire until April 2024, Bloomberg’s sources suggest that the board’s initiating the search earlier than usual could indicate plans to replace the CEO prematurely. However, the timeframe for the search for a successor is also not uncommon.
Shortly after the early departure speculation surfaced, however, and without commenting on it directly, Baumann told the agency he had “phenomenal support” from the other members of his management team as well as the company’s supervisory board.
In any case, the 59-year-old executive has traveled a rocky road since taking the reins from Marijn Dekkers in 2016. Freshly in the new job, he launched the controversial $63 billion takeover of US agribusiness giant Monsanto that closed in 2018.
The takeover has saddled Bayer with still unsettled lawsuits claiming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide Roundup, causes cancer. Altogether, the company has set aside an estimated $16 billion to handle the ongoing litigation.
Another blow to Baumann’s standing was this summer’s decision by the US Supreme Court not to hear its petition to overturn a $25 million award to a plaintiff in one of the three major cases it initially lost. The company had argued that state laws requiring warning labels on packaging were invalid in the absence of pertinent federal legislation.
In deciding not to hear the case, the court dashed Bayer’s hopes of ending all Roundup litigation and sent it back to the drawing boards on how to keep damage awards to a minimum.
From the outset, the Roundup woes have triggered a downslide in the Bayer share price, although the paper has gained 15% this year on the back of a strong pandemic-related earnings gain on agrochemicals.
Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist
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