Genzyme Boss Henri Termeer Not Ready To Sell to Sanofi, Ride Into the Sunset, Sources Say

9/22/10

Henri Termeer has invested most of his professional life building Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ) into a global biotech powerhouse, and it could all come to an unceremonious end if French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) succeeds in its efforts to acquire the company. Yet people close to the Genzyme CEO tell Xconomy that Termeer has plenty of unfinished business, and isn’t nearly ready to leave.

Termeer, who joined Genzyme in 1983 as president and became chief executive in 1985, is credited with leading the company’s evolution from a Boston startup into a multibillion-dollar global enterprise with about 12,000 employees. But over the past year and a half, his sterling record at the company has been tarnished by the viral contamination found at its Allston Landing plant last June and the resulting shortages of its therapies for genetic diseases. A growing chorus of critics, including the powerful activist investor Carl Icahn, has called Termeer’s leadership into question.

Nevertheless, Termeer, 64, has shown few signs that he’s ready to call it quits. Termeer, who is the firm’s chairman, and the rest of Genzyme’s board last month rejected Sanofi’s unsolicited offer to acquire the company for $18.5 billion. This month, Genzyme announced that it is selling its genetic testing unit and cutting 1,000 workers to improve the company’s bottom line and future prospects.

Though Termeer has told the media that he’s open to selling the company, some observers have their doubts. ”Henri does not want to sell the company. Henri never would want to sell the company. He’ll fight it tooth and nail to the extent that he can,” said a former Genzyme executive who asked not to be named. “He has to officially act in the shareholders’ best interest. The trouble is that his view of the shareholders’ best interest is probably not the same as what some of the shareholders think are their best interest.”

Genzyme declined a request to interview Termeer for this story.

He certainly isn’t the first CEO willing to put up a fight to keep his company independent. But Termeer is somewhat unique among biotech chief executives, many of whom build their companies to be sold or dream of the day when a large drug maker will come along with a multibillion-dollar buyout bid.

“I’ve known Henri for many years, and he never … Next Page »

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