Ascendis Health said on Tuesday the director responsible for placing downward pressure on its share price had resigned.

Gary Shayne, a nonexecutive director, would leave the board at the end of March, Ascendis said.

Shayne is the majority beneficial owner and CEO of Coast2Coast Capital, the private equity firm that founded Ascendis in 2008 and listed it on the JSE in November 2013. He has been on the Ascendis board since its founding.

But Shayne has been forced to offload large chunks of Ascendis shares in recent months to meet obligations to lenders, since the stock was used as collateral for loans.

The forced sales were triggered when Ascendis’ shares fell below R5 in November 2018 on concerns about the company’s debt levels and weak organic growth.

Ascendis said on Monday that Shayne had sold another R2.3m worth of its shares last week alone. When he leaves the board, Ascendis will no longer have to disclose his share sales.

The company’s shares were 2.6% up at R4 on Tuesday morning.

In December 2017, Coast2Coast forked out more than R700m to buy 37-million newly issued Ascendis shares at R20 apiece. 

Ascendis CEO Thomas Thomsen said earlier in March the company was maintaining “an arms-length relationship” with Coast2Coast.