In a strategic move aimed at navigating recent challenges, Illumina, a leading genetic testing company, has announced the appointment of Jacob Thaysen as its new CEO. Thaysen, formerly of Agilent Technologies, brings a wealth of experience in the medical tools industry, particularly in the analytical instruments division. His tenure is set to commence on September 25, 2023.
Thaysen's selection is seen as a calculated move by Illumina, especially in the wake of a turbulent period involving a proxy battle with billionaire investor Carl Icahn. Icahn's disagreement with Illumina's decision to repurchase cancer test manufacturer Grail in 2021, in spite of opposition from U.S. and European antitrust regulators, sparked the conflict. Icahn argued that Grail's acquisition had incurred substantial costs for investors and advocated for its divestiture.
Evercore analyst Vijay Kumar commended Thaysen's appointment, stating that he "checks all the boxes" required for the CEO role, citing his extensive experience in the medical tools industry and his understanding of Illumina's customer base.
The proxy battle, which culminated in a May vote favoring Icahn, led to the removal of the then-board chair, John Thompson, and the appointment of Icahn's nominee, Andrew Teno, to the board. Subsequently, Illumina's former CEO, Francis deSouza, stepped down in June, marking another victory for Icahn despite having secured more than twice the number of shareholder votes than his challenger.
Thaysen's appointment also follows a period of interim leadership under Charles Dadswell, who will now return to his role as senior vice president and general counsel at Illumina. However, some industry analysts expressed reservations about Thaysen's lack of prior CEO experience, with Citi analyst Patrick Donnelly noting that investors were hoping for a candidate with more extensive executive leadership credentials.
The timing of Thaysen's appointment is significant, as it coincides with heightened scrutiny of Illumina's Grail deal by antitrust regulators. Additionally, the company recently revised its full-year forecast, citing a slower-than-expected recovery in the Chinese market as a contributing factor.
As Thaysen takes the reins, all eyes will be on Illumina, with stakeholders eager to see how the new CEO navigates the company through these complex challenges. His strategic vision and ability to address regulatory concerns while maintaining shareholder confidence will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping Illumina's future trajectory.