Catherine Mazzacco’s two-year stint as CEO of Danish dermatology specialist LEO Pharma is over. With the company’s board planning for an initial public offering (IPO) within the next four-to-five years, LEO is now on the lookout for a replacement with capital market experience and the ability to steer the firm through what promises to be a momentous period in its 100+ year history.
Prior to her mutually agreed resignation at the end of November 2021, Mazacco had overseen LEO’s first ever biologic launch (tralokinumab as a treatment for atopic dermatitis). The global market for biological eczema treatments, in which LEO stands to become the second biggest player, is worth around USD 12 billion. Mazacco also led LEO during the entrance of Nordic Capital into its ownership structure, the private equity firm paying EUR 450m for 20-25 percent of LEO back in March.
Chairman of the Board Jesper Brandgaard, who will serve as the firm’s executive chair until Mazacco’s successor is appointed, said, “On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Catherine Mazzacco for her commendable efforts in leading the transformation of LEO Pharma towards a leadership position in the innovative space of medical dermatology. Catherine Mazzacco has been instrumental in driving the company’s ambitious growth strategy towards 2030.”
Catherine has led the efforts to identify skilled people with relevant experience to lead a focused, global dermatology business. I think she should get huge credit for that
Jesper Brandgaard, chairman of the board, LEO Pharma
In conversation with Medwatch, Brandgaard added, “the significant role that Catherine has had in terms of bringing together a professional leadership team with very strong international capabilities, must be recognised … Catherine has led the efforts to identify skilled people with relevant experience to lead a focused, global dermatology business. I think she should get huge credit for that.”
Mazacco herself said, “It has been a privilege to be the CEO of LEO Pharma and I have a tremendous affection for LEO Pharma employees and their high level of engagement for the company. I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together in setting an ambitious strategy for the company, completing a comprehensive efficiency improvement program, establishing a new capital structure and advancing the launch of a major new therapy.”
A bad fit from the start?
Some analysts have questioned Mazacco’s suitability for the role in the first place, given the relative brevity of her two-year tenure. Speaking to Medwatch, Henrik Braband of Albright Partners, one of the largest life-science recruitment firms in the Nordics, stated that “Catherine Mazzacco has clearly not been considered to be the right person to take LEO Pharma to the next level, not least with an IPO on the cards within the next 3-5 years.”
Simply put, she has not succeeded in the role as CEO
Henrik Braband, CEO, Albright Partners
Braband added, “Simply put, she has not succeeded in the role as CEO, where she needed to take on a broader role than she has experience of from her commercial roots … She had essentially no experience as the person driving an IPO. Although the chairman of the board and other board members would also play a central and active role in an IPO process, the CEO is a particularly important piece of this puzzle.”
A new profile needed
LEO will be looking externally for its next CEO, and Brandgaard is keen to detail the new profile needed to take the company forward. “We can see that the company is moving into a phase where it needs to change – and this needs to happen fairly quickly in the run up to an IPO, so that we have a CEO with the same economic background as other listed companies have. We aren’t there yet,” he told Medwatch.
[We need] someone who can create significant change at the company. Someone with experience of a large-scale transformation of a pharmaceutical or biotech company, and preferably, a person who is experienced within capital markets
He added, “We can also see that over the next three to four years, we will need to communicate with the capital markets and learn what is required in the lead up to an initial public offering, which we think will happen in four to five years. So we need a profile who has some experience with that, and if they have experience working in a company owned by a private equity fund, that is even better … [We need] someone who can create significant change at the company. Someone with experience of a large-scale transformation of a pharmaceutical or biotech company, and preferably, a person who is experienced within capital markets.”
While the search process has already been initiated, Brandgaard is keen not to rush into a hasty decision, and admits, “All I can say is that I expect the new CEO to start in 2022. But when, I don’t know.”