Takeda Takes Hold of Millennium for $8.8 Billion

4/10/08

For months now we’ve been hearing rumors about big pharma planning a shopping spree among Cambridge’s biotechs, but I’ve got to admit we didn’t see this particular deal coming. Millennium Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MLNM) has been snatched up for just shy of $9 billion by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Japan’s largest drugmaker.

The deal, approved unanimously by each company’s board and announced early this morning, calls for Takeda to acquire Millennium for $8.8 billion through a $25-per-share cash tender offer. That price represents a 53 percent premium over yesterday’s closing price of $16.35. Under the terms of the agreement, Millennium will remain in Cambridge as a standalone business unit of Takeda, and current CEO Deborah Dunsire will remain at the helm.

Founded in 1993 by a team of genomics pioneers including MIT’s Eric Lander and Raju Kucherlapati, then of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and now the scientific director of the Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics, Millennium was once one of the strongest proponents of genomics-based drug innovation at biotech firms. On the strength of that vision, as well as founding CEO Mark Levin’s uncanny ability to cut lucrative partnership deals with pharma, the company’s stock climbed to a peak of about $90 in 2000.

But in-house, genomics-based innovation never quite panned out the way Millennium’s founders envisioned. The biotech got hold of its first approved drug, Campath (now owned by Genzyme), and its one currently marketed product, the cancer drug Velcade, in the 1999 acquisition of Leukosite. And not that a 50 percent-plus price premium is anything to scoff at, but I can’t help viewing Millennium’s exit in light of the predictions that then-CEO Levin shared with me back in 2001: “Over the next five to 10 years, our goal is to become a company that’s leading the world in personalized medicines, a company that is leading the world in productivity, a company with a value of over $100 billion, a company that has five to 10 products on the market that are making a big difference in people’s lives, a company with the strongest pipeline in the entire industry.”

Shares of Millennium opened this morning at $24.46, close to the acquisition price. The deal, which is subject to shareholder approval, is expected to close this quarter.

 

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