Illumina CEO Francis deSouza resigns following proxy battle with Carl Icahn

Francis deSouza has resigned as CEO and director of Illumina after recently surviving activist investor Carl Icahn’s proxy fight against the company, which involved demands to remove deSouza from the DNA sequencing company’s board and replace him as chief executive.  

DeSouza’s resignation is effective immediately, though he will stay on as an adviser to the company until the end of July, Illumina announced June 11. The company has launched a search for its next leader, and Charles Dadswell, Illumina’s senior vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim CEO until a permanent leader is found.  

The move came after Icahn spent weeks trying to gain support for an overhaul of Illumina’s board of directors, citing what he described as their “ill-advised” decision to plow ahead in the $8 billion acquisition of Grail despite ongoing investigations by regulators in the U.S. and Europe. 

During the tense proxy battle, Icahn also suggested that deSouza should be replaced by former Illumina CEO Jay Flatley or a “similar individual.” 

The challenges associated with the Grail acquisition will now fall upon Illumina’s next leader following deSouza’s departure. 

Last fall, the European Commission moved to block the company's acquisition of Grail, and, in April of this year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission followed suit by ordering Illumina to divest Grail. Illumina is currently in the process of appealing the decision. 

Illumina’s board thanked deSouza for his leadership in the June 11 announcement. Reflecting on his tenure at the company, deSouza highlighted Illumina’s achievements and expressed confidence in its future.

“When I joined this company in 2013, we talked about making the company more clinical, more digital, and more global. On behalf of patients, clinicians and physicians everywhere, I'd like to thank the thousands of Illumina employees who made it happen," deSouza said. "We have made great progress together, but I believe we are still at the very beginning of the impact Illumina will have on human health by unlocking the power of the genome."