Two directors quit Shire board

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The Independent Online

Shire Pharmaceuticals said yesterday that two of its controversial Canadian non-executives were leaving the board. The FTSE 100 drug maker has also drawn up a short-list of potential replacements as its struggles to quell investor criticism of a boardroom too heavily weighted towards North America.

Shire Pharmaceuticals said yesterday that two of its controversial Canadian non-executives were leaving the board. The FTSE 100 drug maker has also drawn up a short-list of potential replacements as its struggles to quell investor criticism of a boardroom too heavily weighted towards North America.

The company is still reeling from the departure of Rolf Stahel, its respected chief executive, who was ousted after a row with the non-executives over acquisition strategy.

That debacle prompted criticism of a board that contained a number of North American businessmen drafted in from the six acquisitions made by Mr Stahel since 1993, many of whom had substantial shareholdings in Shire.

The two who stepped down yesterday joined in 2001 from BioChem, the Canadian group which Shire bought for £2.4bn. Francesco Bellini was the founder and chairman of BioChem and Gerard Veilleux is a director of several North American companies. Both had reached the end of their initial two-year contracts, which are not being renewed. James Grant, a third BioChem executive, whose initial term also expired at the weekend, is staying on the board.

Shire shares dived when the non-executives ousted Mr Stahel after what was widely believed to be disagreements over where the company's next acquisitions should come. Mr Stahel was said to have favoured a European acquisition, but the non-executives argued the company needed to focus more heavily on the North American market which includes the US, the biggest drugs market in the world.

James Cavanaugh, Shire's chairman, promised then to rebalance the board with non-executives who meet corporate governance code definitions of independence. He said Shire would appoint at least one new board member from either side of the Atlantic.

Mr Stahel left in March with a £5.9m pay-off. His salary and bonus in 2002 was £1.1m, up from £726,000 the year before, Shire's annual report revealed yesterday.

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