News Column

In the chair: Boss is expert on takeovers

June 24, 2014

Jill Treanor

When Shire named Susan Kilsby as its chair, analysts assumed the arrival of the 55-year-old American illustrated the Dublin-based drugmaker's ambitions to make empire-building deals.

Kilsby, pictured below, had spent 30 years advising major companies on mergers and takeovers. But barely six weeks after becoming chair of Shire, she is deploying strategies to fend off the unwanted advances of US rival AbbVie. The first of three approaches by the pharmaceutical firm came six days after her promotion from a non-executive directorship at Shire in May.

One of only two women to chair a FTSE 100 company - the other is Alison Carnwath at Land Securities - Kilsby was educated at Wellesley College and Yale before opting to work in finance. Her career began at US bank First Boston, before she moved to Bankers Trust and BZW, the now defunct investment arm of Barclays which was bought by Credit Suisse.

It was at the Swiss banking group that Kilsby made her name. In 2002 she became the first woman to head the mergers and acquisitions department of any major bank and she held the position of co-chief-executive of European M&A until 2009. She gave up a part-time advisory role at Credit Suisse when she began chairing Shire.

Analysts say her M&A background will now prove invaluable. Michael Leuchten, an analyst at Barclays, told Bloomberg: "You're talking about someone who is very well plugged in, experienced in takeover scenarios."

Her particular area of expertise is coming up with strategies to defend companies against unwanted bids, and in the four days since Shire admitted it had rejected three bids from AbbVie her approach appears to have been to mimic the one adopted by AstraZeneca last month to fend off Pfizer - promise growing sales and trumpet the potential of drugs in development. The City wonders, though, whether her real task will be to wrest the highest price for the deal.

Shire is not Kilsby's only boardroom job. She is also a non-executive director at Coca-Cola, coffee company Keuring Green Mountain and BBA Aviation, which provides support to aircraft operators.

She is married to Richard Kilsby, chairman of betting firm 888 and a former director of the London Stock Exchange. Jill Treanor

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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