M&A, People

After fruitless talks, a bid from Vas and plenty of patience, AveXis CEO Sean Nolan slowly reeled in an $8.7B deal

AveXis CEO Sean Nolan

Sometimes, it pays to be patient. In Sean Nolan’s case, it was personally worth tens of millions of dollars.

After watching the cork bob in the water for months, the AveXis CEO got his first hard strike on June 29 last year when an admirer offered to buy the company for $112 a share, with a mix of cash and stock.

He and the board threw it right back, even though his own stock was trading at that time for $81.69.

The biopharma, identified in a recent SEC filing as Company B, wasn’t done. A $118 offer was followed by $130, and by the end of July, they were in to conduct due diligence.

It didn’t go anywhere, though, with Company B walking away in August, unable to put a deal together. And that’s something that Nolan probably laughs about these days.

Vasant Narasimhan, Novartis

In the coming months, AveXis shares would surge as it became clear that the FDA would be willing to consider very early-stage data on its gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy, a potential groundbreaker in that field. And on February 16, after the top BD guys at Novartis had begun talks about an alliance, the newly promoted CEO Vas Narasimhan jumped on the phone and offered Nolan $190 a share.

Nolan demurred, but allowed that he was interested.

There were plenty more communications — even a sudden appearance by “Company C” which ended up offering $185 with an intent to find some added value. But Narasimhan got what he wanted when he hiked Novartis bid to $218, with a sweetener to $225 if Novartis has to extend the offer.

Sukumar Nagendran

They closed on April 6 at $8.7 billion, with an 88% premium on the shares and close to twice the first bid made by Company B.

Nolan’s exit package is worth $64.5 million.

Chief Medical Officer Sukumar Nagendran gets $23.4 million.

James L’Italien, the chief regulatory officer, gets $19 million.


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