Roche snaps up a new chairman from Lufthansa

ROCHE has poached Lufthansa’s chief executive Christoph Franz to succeed Franz Humer as chairman of its board, filling the top post at a time of change for the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs.

Franz, 53, who has been a member of Roche’s board since 2011, will stand for election at Roche’s annual shareholder meeting on 4 March, the Swiss drugmaker said yesterday.

“Roche is getting a chairman with outstanding personal qualities and an impressive record as head of a major global company,” said Humer, who is retiring as announced in March.

“I am sure that his extensive experience, exceptional global network and strong links to Switzerland will be great assets.

While the move is a coup for Roche, whose family owners had expressed a preference for an inside candidate, it comes as the German airline is in the middle of a strategic overhaul to try to cope with rising fuel costs and low-cost competition.

“After a total of nearly 15 years in the Lufthansa Group, this was not an easy decision for me to make”, said Franz in a statement. “This is a suitable time for a management handover.”

Analyst Fabian Wenner at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux said Franz fitted the demands of Roche’s family owners by being a German speaker with the right cultural connections, but there would be questions over his depth of knowledge of the drugs industry.

Before becoming head of Lufthansa in January 2011, Franz had been installed as CEO of Swiss International Airlines by the German group after it purchased the ailing carrier.

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