AstraZeneca chair Johansson to retire in 2023 after 11 years in role

By Pushkala Aripaka

(Reuters) -AstraZeneca non-executive Chairman Leif Johansson will retire next year after serving 11 years in the role, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said on Tuesday, as it moves onto the next stage of growth led by newer therapies, including for cancer.

The Swedish businessman, 70, became chairman in 2012, around the same time Frenchman Pascal Soriot took charge as chief executive. Soriot in an interview with the Financial Times last May hinted that succession planning had begun for him and Johansson.

The London-listed drugmaker said on Tuesday that Johansson would step down following the annual general meeting in 2023 and the search for a chair successor was “proceeding well.”

AstraZeneca last year asked Johansson to continue in his role to oversee its now-completed $39 billion acquisition of rare diseases drug maker Alexion, its biggest deal on record, while it also navigated developments around its COVID-19 shot.

He also served as chairman of telecommunications firm Ericsson from 2011 until 2018.

New governance codes introduced in 2019 to diversify talent said that a chair for a firm in Britain should not remain in the post beyond nine years, and companies must carefully consider any extension beyond that for a limited period.

AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it had once again asked Johansson, who reached nine years’ tenure in 2021, to continue for another year until 2023 to facilitate the succession planning.

“The Board believes it would be in the best interests of shareholders for Mr Johansson to seek re-election at the AGM in April 2022 and continue to serve as Chair for one further year,” it said in a statement.

Following confirmation of Johansson’s retirement plans, Soriot’s tenure could come back into investor focus as it leaves behind only him from the old guard at the top. Former finance chief Marc Dunoyer was moved to a new role to lead Alexion.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Porter)