After months of corporate turbulence and high-stakes battles, Illumina has placed its bets on a new leader, Jacob Thaysen, who will step into the role of CEO on September 25th. Thaysen, a former senior vice president at Agilent Technologies, known for his instrumental role in transforming the company’s life sciences and applied markets division, faces a formidable challenge ahead.
Illumina’s journey has been fraught with obstacles ever since its landmark acquisition deal with GRAIL in September 2020. The deal triggered intense scrutiny from regulatory bodies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission, raising concerns about antitrust violations. Adding fuel to the fire, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn launched a campaign against then-CEO Francis deSouza, ultimately securing a seat on Illumina’s board. DeSouza eventually resigned as CEO in June, followed by the departures of the company’s chief technology and chief medical officers.
The troubles continued in July when the European Commission slapped Illumina with a staggering $476 million fine for executing the GRAIL deal without regulatory approval. Simultaneously, the SEC launched an investigation into the $8 billion acquisition.
Despite these trials, Illumina is placing its faith in Thaysen, highlighting his impressive track record at Agilent. During his nine-year tenure, he played a pivotal role in Agilent’s transformation into a life sciences powerhouse, significantly boosting revenue and operating profit.
Stephen MacMillan, Chair of the Board at Illumina, expressed confidence in Thaysen’s unique blend of technological expertise and commercial acumen, envisioning his role in driving long-term shareholder value. Analysts echo this sentiment, with Vijay Kumar from Evercore ISI praising Thaysen’s alignment with the life sciences sector and his profound scientific background.
Thaysen’s new role comes with an attractive compensation package, including a $1 million base salary, a $500,000 cash signing bonus, and $3.5 million in equity as a lure away from Agilent. Additionally, he stands to receive annual equity awards beginning in 2024, valued at a substantial $10 million.
In stark contrast, former CEO deSouza’s pay package hit a peak of $26.7 million in 2022, a sore point for investors, particularly as the company’s stock price plummeted by over 50% in the last five years.
The road ahead is undeniably challenging for Illumina, as evidenced by its recent financial woes. In its Q2 2023 earnings report, the company significantly slashed its fiscal year revenue growth forecast from 7-10% to a mere 1%. With revenue of $1.18 billion in the last quarter, the company also announced a substantial workforce reduction of 79 positions in San Diego, aiming to trim expenses by $100 million in 2023.