Werner Baumann, the chief executive of German pharma and agrochemicals group Bayer, started his job with a bang. He had only been at the helm for three weeks when, on May 23 this year, he announced plans for a mega takeover of U.S. seed manufacturer Monsanto for $66 billion.
Half a year on, we met Mr. Baumann in the Bayer board conference room at the company’s headquarters in Leverkusen, near Düsseldorf. The wave of criticism the deal has attracted from investors and the public doesn’t seem to have fazed him. The 54-year-old, ever the sober strategist, outlined his plans for Bayer and Monsanto, predicting it would enhance growth, boost innovations and help generate essential increases in farming productivity.
Mr. Baumann, how proud are you of what you have achieved as the new boss of Bayer this year?
We have achieved a great deal this year. We are very happy with that.
The takeover of Monsanto is a gigantic project, the biggest in German corporate history. Chief executives usually save something like that for around the middle of their time in office. You started with it. Why?
Of course, the timing was not perfect. I only took over as management board chairman at the beginning of May. But it was the right time for this strategic decision. Monsanto is a very good fit for Bayer, because we complement each other extremely well in terms of products and technology.