Just over 10 years ago, Bayer was stumbling through some of the darkest times in the company’s history. The chemical business was struggling in 2003 amid a scandal over its cholesterol-lowering drug Lipobay, and the German pharmaceutical giant was sinking.
The greatest danger lay in U.S. courts, where Bayer faced huge damage claims in more than 100 deaths linked to Lipobay, which was recalled in 2001. Investors feared mounting liability claims could force the company out of business, and its stock plummeted to less than €10 ($13).
At the time, you could have bought the whole company for a modest €7.5 billion, or $9.94 billion. Analysts saw Bayer drifting like its one-time competitor, Hoechst, which had been dissolved three years earlier.
Eleven years later, the world looks completely different in Leverkusen, the company’s headquarters in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Bayer is back in the drug business and outpacing competitors. The company’s agrochemical business is also running smoothly.
Bayer stock, now selling for nearly €100 a share, have doubled in the last two years alone. With market capitalization of just under €82 billion, the company is vying with Siemens for first place among the most valuable German companies on the DAX blue chip stock index.
The foundation for Bayer’s comeback was laid during the economic meltdown more than a decade ago. Werner Wenning, then chief executive and chairman of the board, first split the business into three groups under a management-holding umbrella.
This was followed by the acquisition of Aventis Crop Science and Roche’s over-the-counter drug business. Then came the move to spin off part of Bayer’s chemicals business to form Lanxess AG. Three years later, Bayer completed a takeover of Schering AG.
Just as important was the course Mr. Wenning set in leadership and research strategy.
Among other moves, he brought top pharmaceutical managers on the board, including Wolfgang Plischke, who was head of the pharmaceutical division, and Kemal Malik from product development.