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Months After Icahn’s Proxy Fight Over the Holy Grail Transaction, Illumina Chooses a New CEO


Illumina, a leading DNA sequencing company, has named Jacob Thaysen as its new CEO as part of its efforts to recover from a contentious dispute over its acquisition of cancer test developer Grail. Thaysen, a 48-year-old executive with extensive experience at medical devices firm Agilent, will assume the role of CEO on September 25.

The leadership change follows a bitter proxy fight with activist investor Carl Icahn, which resulted in the resignation of Illumina’s former CEO, Francis deSouza, despite securing enough votes to stay. The dispute centered around Illumina’s $7.1 billion acquisition of Grail in 2021, which was completed without prior approval from antitrust regulators in the U.S. and European Union. This decision led to Icahn seeking board seats and advocating for the reversal of the deal.

Illumina’s market value has suffered in recent years, declining from approximately $75 billion in August 2021 to around $25 billion. Thaysen’s appointment comes as Illumina continues to contest orders to block the Grail acquisition issued by the European Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The company expects final decisions on these matters in late 2023 or early 2024.

Jacob Thaysen brings a wealth of experience to Illumina, having spent nearly a decade at Agilent. He led Agilent’s analytical instruments division and served as president of the company’s diagnostics and genomics department, achieving significant growth and profitability during his tenure.

Stephen MacMillan, the chair of Illumina’s board, expressed confidence in Thaysen’s ability to provide a fresh perspective and drive profitable growth for the company. Charles Dadswell, who served as interim CEO since June, will resume his role as senior vice president and general counsel at Illumina.

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