Exelixis, facing challenge from Farallon, says Willsey to exit board

·1 min read

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) - Biotechnology company Exelixis said on Sunday that Lance Willsey was leaving its board and that it would not contest the election of a dissident director candidate amid a proxy battle with investor Farallon Capital Management.

"The board supports Dr. Willsey's decision, which will end the need for Farallon to continue its proxy campaign," Exelixis, which develops cancer therapies, said in a statement late on Sunday.

Willsey's decision to resign was related to a "personal matter that occurred more than a decade ago," the company said without elaborating. A Farallon representative could not be reached for comment.

Exelixis also said it recommended that shareholders vote in favor of its remaining 10 director nominees at the May 31 meeting, adding it would not contest the election of Farallon's additional nominee, David Johnson. The board has 11 members.

Farallon, which owns a roughly 7.2% stake in Exelixis, originally nominated three director candidates after raising concerns about the company's spending on research and development.

The company said last month that it would accept two of the hedge fund's proposed candidates - Tomas Heyman, a former Johnson & Johnson executive, and Robert Oliver, a former Otsuka America Pharmaceutical executive - as board members.

On Sunday it said it would not contest the election of Johnson, the managing partner at health care oriented activist hedge fund Caligan Partners.

Exelixis also said it planned to replace two more directors, one each in the next two years, with two independent directors.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Jamie Freed)