Illumina taps Agilent's Jacob Thaysen as CEO

FILE PHOTO: A sign at the front entrance to the global headquarters of Illumina is pictured in San Diego, California

By Bhanvi Satija

(Reuters) -Illumina on Tuesday named Agilent Technologies' Jacob Thaysen as its CEO, months after the former head of the U.S. genetic testing company resigned following a proxy fight with billionaire Carl Icahn.

Illumina repurchased cancer test maker Grail in 2021, despite opposition from the U.S. and European antitrust regulators, a decision that prompted Icahn to pursue a proxy fight, arguing the unit should be divested as it had cost billions of dollars to investors.

The company said Thaysen, 48, who has been part of the analytical instruments division leadership at Agilent since 2018, would take the helm effective Sept. 25.

Thaysen "checks all the boxes" required for the CEO role with his expertise in medical tools industry and understanding of Illumina's customer base, said Evercore analyst Vijay Kumar.

The proxy battle with Icahn ended with a May vote in which the activist investor won enough shareholder support to oust the then-board chair, John Thompson, and appoint his nominee, Andrew Teno, on the board.

Illumina's former head Francis deSouza stepped down in June, marking another victory for the activist investor, even though deSouza had secured more than twice the number of shareholder votes than his challenger.

Thaysen will replace interim CEO ‍Charles Dadswell, who will resume as senior vice president and general counsel at Illumina.

While the appointment starts a new chapter for Illumina, it remains a "show me" story given that investors were hoping for a hire with CEO experience, said Citi analyst Patrick Donnelly.

The appointment comes at a time when the company's Grail deal is under increasing pressure from antitrust regulators, and just weeks after the genetic testing firm cut its full-year forecast, partly due to a slow recovery in China.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar and Shweta Agarwal)