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Departing Novo CFO to pursue acquisitions

Jesper Brandgaard resigns from his job as CFO in Novo Nordisk. In the future, he is to recreate growth in the ailing Biopharm business through acquisitions and license agreements. “I expect more news on that regard in 2018,” he says.

Photo: Novo Nordisk/PR

After 17 years as CFO in Novo Nordisk, Jesper Brandgaard leaves the position. Instead, he will serve as EVP with responsibility for the Biopharm segment and legal affairs.

It might seem like a demotion of the experienced manager but according to CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, this is in no way the case.

“Jesper has done an excellent job during his more than 17 years as CFO in Novo Nordisk. Since May last year, he has also been responsible for Biopharm and led the new strategy. The change will allow Jesper to focus on the growth strategy in Biopharm, including the pursuit of acquisitions and license agreements,” says the CEO.

“Our ambition is to recreate growth in Biopharm through acquisitions and license agreements and it is an incredibly heavy workload for one person. And the situation is that we have a suitable successor to Jesper, who has done a brilliant job in developing the people in his organization,” he adds and refers to Karsten Munk Knudsen, the new CFO appointed from within.

The change will allow Jesper to focus on the growth strategy in Biopharm, including the pursuit of acquisitions and license agreements

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, CEO, Novo Nordisk

Another change in the Novo organization is that long-serving chairman Göran Ando will not rerun for the position. Instead, the company has nominated former Statoil-CEO Helge Lund as new chairman. He is already a member of the board.

Despite the replacements in very central positions in management and board, the changes occur without drama, says Fruergaard Jørgensen.

Full focus on acquisitions

As his CEO mentioned, Brandgaard has already had the formal responsibility for the Biopharm business since last spring. The reason was the wish for buying growth in the Biopharm business that, for several quarters, has been an impediment on Novo Nordisk.

The Danish drug group has been looking for acquisitions and recently bid for its Belgian partner Ablynx. The Belgian biotech company produces, among others, drugs against hemophilia – the same area of focus as for Novo’s Biopharm business.

However, Ablynx is being sold to Novo’s diabetes rival Sanofi, who was willing to pay much more for Ablynx than Novo Nordisk. According to Brandgaard, Sanofi’s interest in Ablynx differed from Novo’s and it resulted in a higher price than the Danish corporation was willing to pay.

“When a drug group looks for acquisitions in the biotech industry it is important to consider how it fits in your company. We did not see the same value in Ablynx as Sanofi did. I do admit that Sanofi has more scientific collaboration with Ablynx compared to Novo Nordisk. Moreover, they are active in the respiratory field – which we are not – and Ablynx is, too. So, I think they found a well-matched future owner,” says the departing CFO.

I expect more news on that regard in 2018

Jesper Brandgaard, EVP, Biopharm and legal affairs

More news in 2018

Despite the defeat in the competition for the Belgian biotech company, Brandgaard maintains his acquisition ambitions for the Biopharm business.

“The case of Ablynx was a clear proof of our dedication to acquire something in hemophilia, hematology, rare bleeding disorders, areas in which we believe we can make a difference. We are still dedicated and I am happy to get the opportunity to focus my efforts in the coming months,” says Brandgaard. He adds:

“So, I expect more news on that regard in 2018.”

English Edit: Ida Løjmand

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