Jeff Mar­raz­zo sparked a bid­ding war for Spark that spurred a thrifty Roche CEO to seal the win­ning deal with a block­buster pre­mi­um

Spark CEO Jeff Mar­raz­zo didn’t have much go­ing for him when Roche chief Sev­erin Schwan told him in De­cem­ber that he was pre­pared to bid $70 a share for the pi­o­neer­ing gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny. Like a lot of biotechs, Spark’s share price had been beat up in the sec­ond half of 2018, and Schwan was ready to turn on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion talks in­to an M&A deal with sweet terms for the phar­ma gi­ant.

Mar­raz­zo’s im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was that Schwan would have to start a lot high­er, well in­to the 80s, if he ex­pect­ed to get deal talks un­der­way. Not on­ly did Mar­raz­zo refuse to en­ter­tain the of­fer, he and the board al­so cut off the col­lab­o­ra­tion talks with Roche. But af­ter a few weeks, a thrifty Schwan was on­ly ready to budge a lit­tle bit, mov­ing to $73.

Then, as Spark’s new SEC fil­ing shows, things be­gan to get very in­ter­est­ing.

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