Elan dissident shareholder Ib Sonderby has unveiled the four candidates he is proposing for the board of the Irish drugmaker, including one who has "a direct historical relationship" to the firm's blockbuster multiple sclerosis treatment Tysabri.
Mr Sonderby, who set up the website saveelan.com in July, has proposed Larry Fritz, the founder of Athena Neurosciences which originally developed Tysabri (natalizumab) and now owned by Elan. Making up the rest of the slate is Jens Bager, chief executive of Denmark's Alk-Abello, Michael Heffernan, head of Collegium Pharmaceutical, and Torbjorn Bjerke, the outgoing CEO of Sweden's Orexo. The latter has also recently been appointed chief executive of Karolinska Development, "one of the largest portfolios of life-sciences companies in Europe".
Mr Sonderby said the four are "entirely independent and, as directors, would serve the interests of all shareholders". He argues that their appointment "is critical to the future of Elan and an important part of stemming the company’s multi-year loss of value".
He went to claim that "the existing board certainly recognises the poor performance of Elan’s stock, the dearth of industry experience among its members and, no doubt, the need for new perspective and insight in resolving its many issues". Mr Sonderby concluded by saying he hopes the four will welcomed by the board "in a friendly and expeditious manner and to a new chapter of good governance and management at Elan".
The company responded by saying it is always "open to and appreciates investor feedback". It added that "the nominating and governance committee of Elan's board of directors will take the names of all proposed candidates for our board under advisement".
Elan commissioned an independent enquiry on corporate governance-related issues in May, which is due to report to the board on September 15. However the firm was granted an injunction in the High Court in Dublin earlier this week to prevent two other dissident directors from interfering with the probe and the last few months have seen increased criticism of the way Elan is run.
Ian Hunter, an analyst at stockbroker Goodbodys, said that "although such issues will have little impact on the day-to-day running of Elan, we look for them to be resolved as soon as possible, to return investor focus back to the progress of Tysabri, the Elan Drug Technologies business and the company's drug pipeline".