Igor Landau

Board member, Sanofi-Aventis

Nationality: French.

Born: July 13, 1944, in Saint-Flour-Cantal, France.

Education: Hautes Études Commerciales, MSc, 1968; INSEAD, MBA, 1971.

Career: La Compagnie du Roneo, 1968–1970, president; McKinsey & Company, 1971–1975, consultant; Rhône-Poulenc Group, 1975–1977, deputy to the president in health division; 1977–1980, executive vice president in health division; 1980–1992, president of health division; 1992–1998, president; Aventis, 1998–2002, president of pharmaceutical division, board member; 2002–2004, chairman and CEO; Sanofi-Aventis, 2004–, board member.

Address: Espace Européen de l'Entreprise, 16 avenue de l'Europe, Strausberg, 67917, France; http://www.aventis.com.

■ Although in 2004 he lost the helm of Aventis during the shockingly American-style hostile takeover by SanofiSynthélabo, Igor Landau remained a major figure in the European pharmaceutical industry. He played a central role in the evolution of the French pharmaceutical group that after the takeover was called Sandofi-Aventis and was the third-biggest drugmaker in the world, behind Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. The savvy executive Landau, who was known by his peers as a politically clever man with a knack for getting what he wanted, ultimately could not fend off the Sanofi takeover bid, but did receive a golden parachute of $31 million and a position on the newly formed company board.


After a short stint with the German subsidiary of La Compagnie du Roneo, the French furniture company, Landau worked as a consultant in the Paris office of McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that provided advice on strategy, operations, and organization for CEOs of large corporations. In 1977 Landau joined Rhône-Poulenc, a major European pharmaceutical company, starting out as the deputy to the president of the health division. He subsequently received promotions to executive vice president and then to president of the health division; he was elected a member of the executive committee and appointed president of the company in 1998. Landau was passionate about his commitment to pharmaceutical development and very vocal about his desire to create drugs to treat the world's worst diseases.

In 1998 Rhône-Poulenc merged with Germany's Hoechst, and Landau was tapped to head the pharmaceutical business of the combined company, Aventis. His primary functions were to streamline and focus research-and-development efforts as well as to overcome the cross-cultural challenges involved in merging French and German companies. Such skills would continue to be an important part of his job in 2002, when he was named chief executive of Aventis. The appointment was the result of the unexpected exits of two of Aventis's top executives: Jean-René Fourtou went to Vivendi Universal, the European biotechnology company, and Jürgen Dormann went to ABB, Europe's biggest electrical-engineering group.

Upon taking the helm, Landau further streamlined Aventis's focus, divesting the company of its interests in drug discovery in all but a few key areas: oncology, diabetes, respiratory, central nervous system, cardiovascular disease, and vaccines. He also channeled funds into the fastest-growing new drugs, such as a long-acting insulin. At the end of 2003 Aventis had approximately 75,000 employees and revenues of about $21 million. Investors remained cool, however; they were wary of Aventis's lack of a strong track record in the drug-discovery arena and knew that generic versions of two of Aventis' bestselling drugs were looming on the horizon.


Landau's tenure as the head of Aventis did not prove productive for the bottom line, with the company's stock falling by nearly half in the year after he took control. The price rebounded briefly, but a further dip in the share price in late 2003 made the company more and more attractive as a takeover target. In January 2004 Sanofi, through its chief executive Jean-François Dehecq, made a bid of $60 billion despite being approximately half the size of Aventis. Aventis and Landau steadfastly rejected the offer, stating that the company was being severely undervalued.

Landau approached Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, hoping it would act as a "white knight" and counter with a more favorable offer. In a move portrayed by critics as nationalistic, individualistic, and egotistical, the French government stepped in, in the person of the French finance minister Nicholas Sarkozy. He reportedly told Dehecq to raise the offer and Landau to accept it. Each executive had little choice but to respect the wishes of one of their biggest customers, the French government. An offer 14 percent higher than the first was accepted; Novartis backed off without tendering a formal bid.


Although Landau's future at the newly named Sanofi-Aventis would be one in which he would report to Dehecq—as a member of the company board—his skills in navigating through rocky waters would potentially prove central to the success of the French pharmaceutical giant. Analysts believed that no one at Sanofi had the experience necessary to run the 100,000-person company. Management support would be crucial in avoiding employment problems, and Landau continued to garner the support of the Aventis employee base. The combined company would likely face significant difficulties in fighting manufacturers of generic versions of three important products: Plavix (clopidogrel), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Lovenox (low-molecular-weight heparin). No stranger to such issues, Landau would likely play an important role in shaping the future of the Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceutical group.

sources for further information

Jacobs, Caroline, "New Sanofi-Aventis Faces Challenges—Aventis CEO," Reuters Company News , June 11, 2004, http://biz.yahoo.com/rc/040611/health_aventus_agm_1.html .

Timmons, Heather, "Aventis Chief to Take Case Into the Open," New York Times , February 4, 2004.

——, "Drug Maker Aventis Accepts $65.5 Billion Takeover Offer," New York Times , April 26, 2004.

Ward, Mike, "European Megapharma: Big Thinkers IV," BioCentury , December 14, 1998, p. A23.

—Michelle L. Johnson

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