Biogen Idec has scored a victory over disgruntled shareholder Carl Icahn after the nominees the billionaire investor put forward to sit on the firm’s board were rejected.

The company announced that stockholders have elected all four of its nominees to the board at the firm’s annual meeting, ahead of three people picked by Mr Icahn. Shareholders also defeated a proposal by Icahn to limit the board size to 12 members.

Alexander Denner, managing director of the Icahn Partners hedge fund and one of the unsuccessful nominees congratulated the board whose head was also magnanimous in victory. Bruce Ross, Biogen's chairman, said the firm was “gratified” by the result, adding that the board “has a track record of delivering stockholder value and is committed to pursuing all avenues to continue to do so in the future”.

However the lead-up to the vote has not been so pleasant. At the beginning of 2008, Mr Icahn, whose business holds a 4% stake in the firm, had criticised the board for not looking hard enough to find a buyer and its decision to take down the ‘for sale’ sign in December last year month after no serious offers were made.

At the time, Biogen said that it conducted “a comprehensive and thorough sale process” but had decided to remain independent. This led Mr Icahn to claim that the firm’s “purported attempt to find a suitor was not conducted in a way to enhance the success of the endeavour''. He added that “the process was flawed in a number of key respects” and was run “to placate us and other large shareholders.''

Specifically, he had claimed that Biogen’s refusal to let bidders talk to Elan Corp, its co-partner for the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) scuppered any chance of a sale. He also argued that the firm’s confidentiality agreement was so restrictive that it prevented potential acquirers from bidding.

Biogen has continually denied the allegations and investors seem to be backing the board. However the news did little to the firm’s stock price which ended the day up just 1.2% to $59.17.