Abcam’s $5.7bn acquisition by multi-national conglomerate Danaher may be blocked by shareholders after the company’s founder declared his intention to vote against the deal. Jonathan Milner, founder and ex-CEO of the UK-based antibody and protein manufacturer, announced yesterday (14 September) that he believed the $24 per share pricing “substantially undervalues” the company, and called for a replacement of the company’s board.

The deal was originally signed in late August 2023, and received unanimous backing from the boards of directors of both companies. However, it was always likely to be controversial with Dr. Milner, who suspended his previous bid to be named executive director of the board only three months ago, citing an increased share price and rumours of a sale.

Such public feuding is rare in the medical world, and this announcement has offered insight into quite how bitter the dispute is. After posting the announcement on LinkedIn, current CEO Alan Hirzel commented beneath questioning the decision in as polite a way as could be expected on the professional networking platform, declaring the choice “odd”.

Previous posts by Dr. Milner have found support from senior scientists at Pfizer and bioscience start-ups, among others, but it remains to be seen whether the board will endorse his proposals.

Despite Milner’s claims of undervaluation, the deal offers a cash value of 26 times the company’s 2023 EBITDA, and hovers around the high end of independent valuations of the company. Abcam’s official statement accuses the founder of “an attempt to create confusion for shareholders”.

How much the sale is motivated by fears of a board replacement is unclear, though the process of searching for a buyer did begin whilst the original dispute was taking place. If the deal is successful, it will mark Danaher’s fifth largest deal since 2010, and the largest since 2021, when the company acquired DNA and protein manufacturer Aldevron.

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