Bayer has announced a changing of the guard which will see Marijn Dekkers take over as chief executive from Werner Wenning, while its ;pharma head Arthur Higgins is stepping down next year “for personal reasons”.

Dr Dekkers, 51, who is currently CEO at the US laboratory equipment manufacturer Thermo Fisher Scientific, will join Bayer's management board on January 1 2010 and take over the top job from Mr Wenning, who has extended his contract by eight months, on October 1. Dr Dekkers will also serve as interim CEO of Bayer Healthcare, once Mr Higgins, 52, departs in the first half of 2010.

A Bayer spokesperson declined to comment further on Mr Higgins’ departure, though personal reasons have been cited. He has been an instrumental figure in turning the Leverkusen-headquartered firm’s pharmaceutical operations into a successful division.

Bayer also revealed that chief financial officer Klaus Kuehn, 58, is taking early retirement in April 2010 and will be replaced by Werner Baumann, 46, who helped with the integration of Schering, acquired in 2006.

Manfred Schneider, Bayer’s chairman,said the firm’s supervisory board believes that, in Dr Dekkers, “it has found a highly-qualified successor to steer the fortunes of our company. His international experience, goal-oriented approach and proven management skills are very convincing qualities”. The man, born in the Netherlands, oversaw Thermo Electron's purchase of the larger firm Fisher Scientific in 2006, creating a company with annual sales of $10.5 billion.

Analysts believe that the choice of Dr Dekkers will see Bayer focus even more on life sciences and could lead to an end to its hybrid structure, with its MaterialScience unit possibly going under the hammer in the near future.

FDA warns Bayer over facility
Meantime, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned Bayer about “significant deviations” from current good manufacturing practices at its facility in Bergkamen, Germany. The agency sent a warning letter after an inspection in March, detailing a “quality management system fails to ensure that active pharmaceutical ingredients manufactured and released by your firm meet established specifications”.

Bayer shipped eight drug batches using a method of measuring the quality of ingredients, notably drospirenone, which is used in the Yasmin contraceptive range, based on an average of samples, instead of individual tests results. The company responded to the FDA in April saying that the quality of these batches was not affected, but the agency says it disagrees and “failure to correct these deficiencies may result in the FDA denying entry of articles manufactured by your firm into the USA”.