Insider or Outsider? Spencer Stuart In CEO Hunt for Alexion Pharmaceuticals

December 19, 2016 – Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been retained by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to lead in its search for a new chief executive officer. CEO David Hallal has officially resigned for personal reasons.

The sudden shift at the top comes shortly after the board had previously announced it was conducting an investigation into allegations made by a former employee in regards to the way the company sold Soliris. The investigation caused the company to delay its third quarter 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

David Brennan has been assigned interim CEO, effective immediately. Mr. Brennan is the former CEO and executive director of AstraZeneca PLC and has been a member of the Alexion board of directors since 2014.

Insider or Outsider?

“This leadership transition comes during a period of great strength and momentum,” said Leonard Bell, M.D., chairman of the board of directors. “The fundamentals of Alexion are very strong and we have three highly effective therapies and a robust rare disease pipeline.” The company, he added, is well-positioned for sustainable growth. “Alexion has a clear strategy to deliver long-term growth, and the board and I are fully committed to ensuring a smooth transition as we position the company for continued success as one of the world’s most innovative biopharmaceutical companies.”

Spencer Stuart’s search will include the usual assessment of both internal and external candidates. Since roughly just 16 percent of CEO posts are filled by outsiders the likelihood that someone is found inside the company is high. In a recently completed high profile global pharma search, a team of consultants from Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry engaged to support the succession and recruitment process at GlaxoSmithKline by tapping company insider Emma Walmsley as chief executive officer. She becomes the first woman to lead the pharmaceutical giant.

CEO Successors: Internal vs. External Placements

But a Spencer Stuart report about life sciences companies casting a wider net when it comes to sourcing talent found that some of these companies are responding strategically to a period of economic upheaval by bringing in talent not only from outside client companies but outside the sector as well.

Alexion is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and delivering life-transforming therapies for patients with devastating and rare disorders. It developed and commercializes Soliris, the first and only approved complement inhibitor to treat patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, two life-threatening ultra-rare disorders.


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The biopharma industry continues to evolve as the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals fields integrate, increasingly sharing talent, technology and business models, according to Spencer Stuart. In addition, the rise of generics has contributed to an increasingly competitive landscape. Thus, innovation — in personalized medicine, outcomes research and reimbursement models — is a top priority and market advantage says the search firm, which notes that biopharma leaders must have broad experience, including a background in drug development, commercialization and deal-making, and the operational expertise to pursue the most cost-effective processes for the pipeline to deliver its promise.

Spencer Stuart’s global biopharma practice has conducted more than 700 executive and board searches for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, from startups to the major industry players that account for half of sector sales over the past three years. The practice works with clients to place board directors, C-suite leadership and senior leaders in research and development, manufacturing and quality, managed markets and reimbursements, commercial, human resources and other functional roles. Consultant Mark Broer leads the practice. He specializes in recruiting CEOs, C-level executives, board directors and chairmen within the life sciences sector, with a particular focus on senior level international appointments.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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