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Bayer says investor Jeff Ubben joins its independent sustainability council

The Bayer AG logo sits on display at the headquarters in La Garenne-Colombes, near Paris

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Bayer has appointed Jeff Ubben to the drugmaker's independent sustainability council, in a sign that the activist investor will be given a say at the embattled group.

The Germany company said in a statement on Monday that Ubben would be one of three new entrants to the nine-member council, which meets with members of Bayer's management board twice a year.

Bayer's shares have been weighed down by litigation over its Roundup weedkiller and by its diversified structure, drawing investors' criticism.

On Feb. 8, Bayer said it would replace its CEO early after a selection process that began in mid-2022, recruiting the former head of Roche's pharmaceuticals business, Bill Anderson.

Days before the announcement on the CEO changeover, sources told Reuters that Ubben, who runs investment fund Inclusive Capital, had contacted fellow investors to drum up support for big changes at Bayer, including the swift replacement of outgoing CEO Werner Baumann.

Ubben, who holds a 0.83% stake in Bayer, said he was excited about the company’s research and development strengths.

"Bayer’s Crop Science division holds great potential to minimise the need for further deforestation by increasing the current arable land’s productivity," Ubben said in Bayer's statement.

A source familiar with the matter has told Reuters that Ubben welcomed Anderson as Bayer's choice of new CEO.

While it was not clear whether Ubben would also seek a supervisory board seat, he was quoted by the Financial Times on Sunday as saying that such a move and the sustainability role USwere not “mutually exclusive”.

A Bayer spokesperson declined to comment further. Ubben could not be immediately reached outside of U.S. business hours.

The other two new members of the sustainability council are former Rwandan health minister Agnes Binagwaho and Dante Pesce, the former chair of the United Nations working group on business and human rights.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Editing by Paul Carrel, Kirsten Donovan)