Arix reappoints CEO 5 months after starting hunt for replacement

Arix Bioscience's founders Sir Chris Evans, Joe Anderson and Jonathan Peacock. (Arix Bioscience)

Arix Bioscience’s five-month search for a CEO has ended with it reappointing the person who vacated the role at the start of the process. Joe Anderson stepped down as CEO in September to take up the chief investment officer position but now finds himself back in charge of the company.

Anderson, a former partner at Abingworth, led Arix as it built up a portfolio of biotechs including Autolus and Harpoon Therapeutics and went public in London. That done, Anderson transitioned to the CIO post, leaving Arix executive chairman Jonathan Peacock to run the company while it looked for a full-time successor.

The hunt dragged on for months only to end up back at Anderson. In explaining the about-face, Peacock state that Arix has “benefited from Joe’s focus as CIO over the recent months and the changes announced today build on this.”

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Anderson’s reappointment is part of a flurry of changes that affect the three people who got Arix off the ground several years ago. Peacock is moving into the chairman role while Sir Chris Evans, the third member of the founding trio, is leaving the board of directors. Evans previously served as deputy chairman but will now only support Arix as a consultant. 

The upshot is that, while the hunt for a fresh face failed, Arix has exited the search for a new CEO with a revised, slimmed down leadership team. Analysts at Jefferies think that means the outcome is a success, even though the process was messy.

“We don't characterize this as a boardroom power struggle, but the changes address criticism over the top-heavy executive team and costs, with an outcome of a clear leadership structure and the move of Sir Chris, a high profile but polarising figure, to a more arms-length role,” the analysts wrote in a note to investors. 

Arix has come under pressure to cut costs, with critics zeroing in on the amounts paid to its three founders. In 2018, Arix spent £1.7 million on Anderson and £1.3 million a piece on Peacock and Evans. Spending on another employee, James Rawlingson, totaled £863,000. 

The reorganization stands to chip away at some of those figures at a time when spending by groups such as Arix is at the forefront of investors’ minds. Notably, Allied Minds, an investment group with a similar model to Arix, is under pressure to cut costs, leading CEO Jill Smith to agree to “materially reduce” her cash salary for two years and take any bonuses in shares, not cash.