Susan Kilsby, Shire

Susan Kilsby
Orchestrating the year's biggest M&A deal

Company: Shire
Title: Chairman

When Susan Kilsby took up the post of Shire ($SHPG) chairman this January, some speculated the Ireland-based company could be handing her the reins to further its bid to expand through M&A. She certainly had the background after spending 30 years advising large companies on mergers and takeovers, and departing chairman Matthew Emmens called her the "ideal chairman" for the company as it embarked "on another new era of growth."

Less than a week later, she received a call that put into motion pharma's biggest deal of the year to date. AbbVie ($ABBV) CEO Richard Gonzalez said he had an "important corporate matter" he wanted to discuss, and Kilsby helped take it from there, according to a New York Times report.

A handful of bids and several weeks of courtship later, Kilsby engineered a $54.8 billion sale to the Illinois pharma. Shareholders netted £52.48 a share in cash and stock, a 53% premium on Shire's closing price the day before the deal talks went public--and quite a bit more than the £39.50 Gonzalez initially came calling with, the Times says.

"It's very, very sweet for Shire," UBS analyst Guillaume van Renterghem told Bloomberg at the time. "The beauty of this AbbVie-Shire deal is that everybody gets out of this deal in even better shape than they entered it."

And for that, Shire has Kilsby--and her M&A savvy--to thank. She honed those skills working in Credit Suisse's M&A group, and later she moved to London to head its European Consumer, Retail & Services group in investment banking. From there, she went on to head M&A and strategic advisory for EMEA, later chairing it and becoming a senior adviser.

Analysts are not the only ones to heap recent praise on Kilsby's dealmaking prowess. In 2007, Forbes and Financial News recognized her as one of the Top Ten Women in Finance, and Financial News bestowed that honor again each year from 2008 through 2011. She's also a member of C200, an organization comprising leading women in business around the world, and she chaired its international region from 2010 to 2013. Currently, she's a senior visiting fellow of Cass Business School in London and the chairman of its M&A research center.

For more:
AbbVie urges shareholders to push Shire toward deal talks
AbbVie and Shire square off over a spurned $46B buyout offer

-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)

Susan Kilsby, Shire
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