As CEO of Paris-based Sanofi ($SNY), Chris Viehbacher has never made any secret of his crush on the Boston-area biotech hub. He paid $20 billion for Genzyme, recently bought into Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam ($ALNY), partnered locally and made regular appearances in local industry circles.
And now, the word is out that he moved there.
"This is a personal family decision made by Chris Viehbacher, which will have no effect on the operation of the company," a spokesperson tells FierceBiotech. But some Boston biotech insiders may see things somewhat differently.
Of all the Big Pharma companies, Sanofi under Viehbacher has been one of the most avid in making outside innovation a huge focus. And that focus has grown as its own internal research efforts have floundered in recent years. The company, which has about 5,000 employees in Massachusetts, has very close R&D relationships with Regeneron ($REGN) and now Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam and has been steadily beefing up U.S. operations under Elias Zerhouni.
It also probably doesn't hurt that Viehbacher is a big fan of the Patriots and the Red Sox.
"I like Boston," Viehbacher told the Boston Business Journal back in 2012. "I don't think there is anyplace else where in a five-mile radius you have this much talent, this much venture capital, this many biotechs. I'll run into people who are talking to me about a new company and they are literally a block from Genzyme center, so you can see people by foot."
Back in France, meanwhile, workers have been allied with the French government in thwarting Viehbacher's initiative to cut back and downsize a staff that he has reportedly criticized for failing to do anything significant in years. Viehbacher's move to the U.S. now can only spur new fears that France is losing its influence on one of the country's biggest multinationals.
With his biotech heart and now his home in Boston, you can expect to continue to see the biotech hub figure prominently when he looks to the company's future. And whatever the company is saying today, that can pay off in jobs and investments.