Carl Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, has voiced his support for Illumina’s new CEO, Jacob Thaysen, marking a positive turn for the company as it seeks to recover from a contentious proxy battle with Icahn. In a statement, Icahn conveyed his confidence in Thaysen and indicated that they had discussed the company’s future.
Icahn’s proxy battle with Illumina stemmed from the company’s decision to proceed with its $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test developer Grail in 2021 despite lacking approval from antitrust regulators in the U.S. and the European Union. Throughout the battle, Icahn heavily criticized Illumina’s former CEO, Francis deSouza, who ultimately resigned in May despite having secured sufficient votes to retain his position.
Illumina’s share price experienced a significant decline of nearly 70% since the completion of the Grail acquisition in August 2021. The company’s market capitalization plummeted from approximately $75 billion to around $25 billion during this period.
Jacob Thaysen is set to assume the role of Illumina’s CEO on September 25, bringing with him nearly a decade of experience from his time at Agilent Technologies, a medical devices firm. During his tenure at Agilent, Thaysen oversaw the company’s largest analytical lab unit and managed to double the division’s operating profit.
With Icahn’s endorsement, Illumina’s investors are now eager to see how Thaysen will address the Grail business and whether he can guide the company in rebuilding its lost market value. Thaysen’s leadership and strategic decisions will be closely monitored as Illumina seeks to recover from the challenges it has faced in recent times.