Medical couple and butcher's boy win big from Actelion sale

Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:48am EST
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By John Miller

ZURICH (Reuters) - The 70-year-old son of a Swiss butcher is among the biggest beneficiaries of Johnson & Johnson's $30 billion takeover of Actelion, Europe's biggest biotech company.

For Rudolf Maag, whose 5.1 percent Actelion stake is worth more than $1.5 billion, this is the second time in five years that deep-pocketed J&J's craving for Swiss medical companies has made him rich.

Back in 2012, the U.S. healthcare giant bought Maag's 15 percent stake in device maker Synthes Stratec in a takeover, making him a billionaire.

The biggest European pharma deal in 13 years will also enrich Actelion Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel and his wife, Martine, the doctors who founded the company in 1997 and owned 5.03 percent of shares, according to the 2015 annual report.

Other winners include BlackRock, which according to a SIX Swiss Exchange filing from December owns 5.2 percent of Actelion, and billionaire U.S. hedge fund manager Dan Och, whose Och-Ziff Capital Management Group amassed nearly 3.2 percent now worth nearly $1 billion in a stake announced before Christmas.

European biotechnology has long been a poor relation to the far bigger industry in the United States, but the Clozels broke the mould in developing a fully fledged and profitable business.

At Actelion they built molecules they first worked on while employees at Swiss drug giant Roche into what became the blockbuster Tracleer for treating deadly pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

With the announcement of J&J's takeover after more than two months of negotiations, other owners of Actelion are cheering, too.   Continued...

Actelion CEO and founder Jean-Paul Clozel attends a news conference at Actelion headquarters in Allschwil, Switzerland January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann