First non-Japanese CEO in Takeda’s 230 year history

Takeda, Asia’s largest pharmaceutical company, caused a sensation in November when it announced that it intended to appoint Christophe Weber, a French 47 year old outsider from GlaxoSmithKline, as its next CEO, subject to board approval. Not only is he not Japanese, but he is much younger than the average Japanese President, and he is the 20 year old veteran of another rival company.

He was not unknown to Takeda however, as he was key member in the collaboration between Takeda and GSK on a vaccine joint venture.  However, when I discussed this appointment with the President of a Japanese start up company in the same healthcare sector he was not impressed – “a paucity of management” on the current CEO Yasukichi Hasegawa’s part, he harrumphed.

Hasegawa himself had been appointed by Kunio Takeda, scion of the founding family, in 2003, with Takeda stating “I’ve reached the limit of what I can do to globalize the company”.  Hasegawa took up the baton, acquiring US cancer R&D company Millennium Pharmaceutical in 2008 and Swiss biotech company Nycomed in 2011.  He tried to retain many of Millennium’s executives such as CEO Deborah Dunsire, who also joined Takeda’s unusually “diverse” board which includes Japanese American “Tachi” Yamada, President of Global Health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Frank Morich, ex Bayer.  However she resigned in 2013 as a result of the restructuring that Hasegawa pushed through, to integrate Millennium more fully into Takeda and streamline operations.

Apparently, a couple of years’ ago, Hasegawa said he wanted to have a Japanese person succeed him.  He felt that diversifying the structure and bringing in non-Japanese was going to take time to show results, and he would have to pass the baton on before then.

Although my healthcare industry CEO used “paucity” to describe Hasegawa’s management capability, it seems from this that there is a paucity of internationally capable management within the Takeda home country organisation to carry on and support the bold moves that are being made – a situation many globalizing Japanese companies are facing.



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