Takeda gains first foreign chief as Weber is appointed CEO


Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. has named Christophe Weber chief executive officer as part of a planned succession that makes the French national one of the few international executives to lead a Japanese company.

Weber, currently the chief operating officer, takes the new position effective April 1, the drugmaker said in a statement Wednesday.

Takeda hired Weber, a veteran of GlaxoSmithKline Plc., last April and had said it planned to have him succeed CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa this year.

Weber is tasked with ramping up growth at the 233-year-old drugmaker, which in May reported its lowest profit in 15 years. The Osaka-based company has been seeking new drugs to replace revenue generated from its blockbuster diabetes medicine Actos, which began facing generic competition in 2012.

He will be the drugmaker’s first non-Japanese CEO. Takeda traces its roots to a medicine wholesale business that opened in Osaka in 1781. Weber, a 20-year Glaxo veteran, was previously the president of that company’s vaccine division in Belgium.

International leaders have had a mixed track record in Japan. While Nissan Motor Co.’s Carlos Ghosn has been credited with turning around the automaker, others have struggled to fit into Japan’s management culture. In 2012, Craig Naylor resigned as CEO of Nippon Sheet Glass Co., citing a clash with the board.

While Weber follows a path trod by Ghosn and Howard Stringer, the former Sony Corp. president, the latter was promoted from within. Stringer stepped down in 2012 after overseeing four straight annual losses.

In an interview last month, Weber said he expects to see a turnaround next fiscal year as new products bolster growth. Takeda shares have gained about 33 percent over the past year, compared with a 26 percent gain for the broader Topix index.

  • Ron NJ

    Kind of strange how in 2015 it’s still considered something noteworthy for a non-Japanese person to be appointed head of a Japanese firm. You’d figure that a country with the international stature, commitments, exposure, and reach of Japan would have “opened the gates”, as it were, to equality a long time ago.

    Sadly, you would be mistaken.

    • James

      Sadly you are also mistaken in your analysis. You know very well that Japan is a country that has largely been built by the Japanese themselves, similar to Korea or China. They are quite unlike the West where large numbers of immigrants/foreigners compromising of double-digit percentage of the overall population have contributed for more than a hundred years. The earliest example I can think of were the Chinese railway workers building railway lines in the US in the late 1800s. You know very well that historically there were few foreigners working in Japan so now that some are being appointed to executive positions, people are quick to play the “equality” (or inequality) card.

    • isogashii_desu

      Oh please. Anytime a non-white, non-male gets made the CEO of an American company, the likes of Fortune, forbes and Time fall over themselves to cover it like it’s massive news.