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Another Top Sanofi Exec Resigns, As Purging of Old Guard Continues

Written by: | news@biospace.com | Dated: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

The purging of the old guard installed by former chief exec Chris Viehbacher continued at French drugmaker Sanofi (SNY) Monday, when the firm’s global head for prostate cancer drug Jevtana, Zhen Su, left to find work outside the company.

The company did not issue a release on Su’s departure but the press learned about it instead from an automated reply received when an email was sent to his corporate account. It said Su will “pursue a career development opportunity outside of Sanofi.”

Su was previously an executive at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Su’s departure is only the latest absconding from Sanofi’s top ranks. On May 18 Sanofi had another high level executive fly the C-level coop when its chief strategy officer, David-Alexandre Gros, had left to pursue other opportunities.

Gros had overseen Sanofi’s mergers & acquisitions department, a unit that will now report to Chief Financial Officer Jerome Contamine. The rest of Gros’s responsibilities will be redistributed throughout the company.

Gros came to Sanofi in 2011 from Centerview Partners, where he was an investment banker. His tenure saw the forging of some major business development and acquisitions, including two significant partnership with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (REGN) and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY). He had been charged with strategic planning, alliance management and strategic intelligence.

Gros’s departure has raised eyebrows because he was one of the key hires made by now-ousted former Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher. Bayer AG (BAYZF) exec Olivier Brandicourt, with investor advisory group ISS contacting shareholders to urge them not to vote for the two payment resolutions.

In particular, the ISS objects to an enormous joining bonus and a pension of 9 million euros for Brandicourt, as well as a $4.95 million payout to Viehbacher. The company immediately pushed back, posting on its website a statement that read, in part: “If Sanofi is taking the initiative today of contacting you directly, it is because these recommendations do not reflect a simple difference of opinion; they reflect a real error in analysis by ISS.”

When Brandicourt was hired in February, controversy immediately erupted over the compensation package for Brandicourt, with several French government officials decrying the amount, calling it “incomprehensible.” Brandicourt could walk off with as much as $4.5 million in a “golden handshake” payment in addition to making $4.76 million a year.

That base figure is comprised by a fixed annual salary of $1.36 million a year, which is supplemented by a performance-related bonus of between 150 to 250 percent, as well as stock options and performance shares.

That is much too sweet a deal for French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll, who told RTL radio at the time that the pay package was “incomprehensible”–especially for the country’s largest listed company.

“These people, when they have hardly taken the reins of a company–which is to say they haven’t yet taken any risk–are already assured to get a disproportionate package,” Le Foll said.

Former presidential candidate Segolene Royal, the current energy and environment minister, echoed Le Foll’s comments and admonished large companies, saying “some self-discipline is needed.”


May 26, 2015
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

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