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Illumina shareholders reject board chair, CEO survives Carl Icahn proxy war

Activist investor Carl Icahn has achieved a significant victory in his battle against biotech company Illumina. Shareholders have voted to remove the company’s board chair, John Thompson, as part of Icahn’s efforts to exert influence over the company’s leadership. While Illumina’s CEO, Francis deSouza, managed to retain his position, Icahn succeeded in securing a board seat for one of his nominees, Andrew Teno. This outcome marks the end of a two-month proxy fight centered around Illumina’s controversial acquisition of cancer test maker Grail.

Icahn has been critical of Illumina’s management and board, accusing them of poor oversight and challenging the Grail deal. He believes the acquisition was questionable and has called for its reversal, along with the immediate removal of deSouza. Illumina’s market value has experienced a significant decline since the Grail acquisition, which Icahn attributes to inadequate decision-making and the absence of regulatory approvals.

While Illumina defends the Grail acquisition, the company now faces regulatory challenges from both the US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission. Illumina plans to appeal these decisions, but the final outcomes are not expected until late 2023 or early 2024.

With Thompson’s removal, Illumina will need to select a new board chair in the coming weeks. The changes at the board level reflect Icahn’s growing influence within the company and his determination to reshape its strategic direction.

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