Karsten Wellner. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Karsten Wellner. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Ascendis Health’s founding CEO, Karsten Wellner, will step down on Thursday, the same day that the acquisitive healthcare group is due to publish its results for the six months to December.

Ascendis said on Tuesday that chief operating officer Thomas Thomsen would take over the reins from that day, although Wellner would work with Thomsen over the next four months "to ensure a smooth transition".

Wellner — CEO since the group was founded in 2011 — will thereafter step down as a member of the board, effective June 30.

"I’m fully in support of the whole thing," he said on Tuesday, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter further before Ascendis published its results.

After leaving the company, Wellner would work "in business and investment areas not related to Ascendis", he said.

Chairman John Bester said Thomsen’s promotion to CEO was part of a "phased succession plan" that began when he was hired as chief operating officer in August 2017.

"He has a proven track record in senior executive positions in major global consumer healthcare companies such as Novartis and Reckitt Benckiser, and as a nonexecutive director of listed and private equity companies," Bester said.

"In his short time in the group, Thomas has initiated improvements in our European businesses through synergy projects, a focus on leadership, commenced a recovery plan for Scitec and initiated a strategic review of the group."

Ascendis said Wellner had delivered "solid results" for the six months to December 2017. The company said in a recent trading statement that headline earnings from continuing operations would rise up to 46%.

"Karsten has made an outstanding contribution to the group, driving and overseeing the growth of Ascendis into a leading multinational health and care company with annualised revenues of approximately R8bn, exports to over 120 countries and more than 4,000 employees," Bester said.