Illumina broadcasts CEO transition plan as Francis deSouza resigns

Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina Inc., during a panel discussion on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Illumina announced on Sunday that its board of directors has accepted the resignation of CEO Francis deSouza, just weeks after activist investor Carl Icahn failed to oust him from the biotech company.

According to a statement, the board is looking for a new CEO and is considering both internal and external candidates. Charles Dadswell, Illumina’s senior vice president and general counsel, will serve as CEO in the interim.

DeSouza’s resignation is effective immediately, but he will remain in an advisory role through July 31.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve Illumina,” deSouza said in the press release. “We’ve made great strides together, but I believe we’re just beginning to see the impact Illumina will have on human health by unleashing the power of the genome.”

Illumina, known for its DNA sequencing and array-based technology, is locked in a heated proxy battle with Icahn, which owns a 1.4% stake in the company.

Icahn has accused Illumina’s management and board of poor oversight, particularly in light of the company’s controversial $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail in 2021. In an open letter to Illumina shareholders in April, Icahn accused Icahn deSouza also did “desperate, hilarious work” and, most importantly, unsuccessfully attempted to share “decidedly mediocre” quarterly results during a press tour.

In late May, Icahn asked shareholders to vote out deSouza and Chairman John Thompson from the nine-member board. Shareholders fired Thompson, but deSouza retained his role through Sunday.

Icahn tweeted on Sunday that he was “happy” to see the recent changes at Illumina.

“While I certainly think the CEO change should have happened much earlier, it’s still a very positive event,” he said.

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