Illumina expands board after fight with Icahn

(Reuters) -Illumina Inc on Friday said it had expanded its board, adding two C-suite executives a week after shareholders voted to replace the gene sequencing company’s chairman with activist investor Carl Icahn’s nominee.

The San Diego-headquartered company, valued at $31.6 billion, had long planned to increase the size of the board to 11 by adding directors with experience as a healthcare CEO and as a chief financial officer (CFO) with Wall Street expertise.

On Friday it named Stephen MacMillan, CEO of diagnostics products company Hologic Inc, and Scott Ullem, CFO of heart valve systems maker Edwards Lifesciences Corp, as new directors. MacMillan was also elected as non-executive chairman.

Wall Street analysts welcomed the move, with analysts at Evercore ISI writing: “Steve and Scott are well known and respected by Wall Street and should bring a ton of confidence into the (Illumina) story.”

Illumina’s stock price, which has fallen nearly 20% in the last 52 weeks, traded modestly higher in a broader market that was also up.

The news comes one week after a boardroom battle between the company and billionaire investor Icahn ended in a vote that both sides hailed as a victory. It was the biggest fight in corporate America to be voted on by shareholders this year.

Shareholders elected one of Icahn’s three nominees, Andrew Teno, to the board after criticizing the company for its $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail and saying former CEO Jay Flatley should return and run the company.

Teno knocked out board chairman John Thompson in the vote.

Illumina CEO Francis deSouza, who was challenged by Icahn nominee Vincent Intrieri, survived the campaign and won more votes than all Icahn nominees to retain his position. But he also got the fewest number of votes of candidates elected from the Illumina side.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston, Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Mark Potter)


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