Ipsen ousts deputy CEO following 'disagreements' over strategy

Ipsen (EPA:IPN) has ousted its deputy CEO following "disagreements over strategy." The reshuffle will also see CEO Marc de Garidel step aside and limit his role to that of nonexecutive chairman, leaving Ipsen in need of a new person to occupy its top leadership position.

Ipsen CEO Marc de Garidel

Paris, France-based Ipsen is presenting the decision of Deputy CEO Christel Bories to leave the company as the more contentious of the two leadership changes. Bories, whom observers credit with improving Ipsen's operational performance, is leaving following "disagreements" with the board of directors over the strategy the company is pursuing. The terms of the separation entitle Bories to her severance package, an agreement that has prompted questions about whether there really is a disagreement with the board.

"This may largely be wording to enable the contractually agreed severance package to be awarded, in our view, and perhaps more likely reflects the decision to look outside for a new CEO," Jefferies analyst Peter Welford wrote in a note to investors.

Ipsen, for its part, sought to reassure the outside world that whatever is going on is having no effect on its ability to hit its near- and long-term financial targets. But, with such wholesale leadership reshuffles typically indicating a company has problems, the news sparked the biggest stock drop to hit Ipsen in almost 6 months, Bloomberg reports.

Shares in Ipsen, a company with a market cap of around €4 billion ($4.5 billion), rallied later in the day to close down less than 2%. The recovery suggests investors have bought into the idea that Ipsen is still on track and the new CEO, who is expected to be in place "within the coming months," can execute a peptide and toxin-focused R&D strategy that the board forecasts will drive the company toward annual sales of €2 billion by 2020.

The CEO will work alongside de Garidel to realize this strategy. Ipsen described the decision to split the roles of CEO and chairman, both of which are currently held by de Garidel, as part of an evolution of its approach to corporate governance. Critics of combining the roles of CEO and chairman typically focus on the potential for the model to give one person too much power and diminish transparency. In the case of Ipsen, it appears the board views being CEO of a company with its ambitions as a full-time job.

"This evolution meets the need for our group to accelerate its international development in an increasingly complex environment," de Garidel said in a statement. "The separation of functions will enable the CEO to concentrate on the business strategy, the pursuit of our transformation and operations while, as non-executive chairman, I will be able to focus fully on leading and animating the board of directors."

Prior to the reshuffle, Bories had a central role in the operational performance of Ipsen, freeing de Garidel to work on business development and strategy.

- read the statement
- here's Bloomberg's take