Local control on the line amid Biogen takeover speculation

bGlobeBy Robert Weisman | The Boston Globe

It’s happened before.

For many in the Massachusetts biotech community, the buyout buzz surrounding Biogen Inc. has revived vivid memories of other homegrown heavyweights, notably Genzyme Corp. and Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., being snapped up by out-of-state pharmaceutical giants.

A purchase of Biogen — which was approached by Merck & Co. and Allergan PLC, according to The Wall Street Journal — would likely mean the loss of local control for the state’s largest remaining biotech and most valuable public company.

“It would be the end of an era,” said life sciences adviser Leora Schiff, principal at Altius Strategy Consulting in Somerville. “Biogen is the last of the industry’s early trailblazers. Genzyme is no longer independent, Millennium is no longer independent. We could be losing that culture of entrepreneurial risk-taking. Control over the company’s direction would shift out of state, and that could have an impact on workforce levels and where research is done.”

Biogen’s stock climbed 9.3 percent to a 2016 high on Tuesday after the Journal reported the takeover overtures. The shares gave back 2.7 percent on Wednesday to $321, as analysts debated the likelihood that an offer would be made.

The importance of corporate headquarters to Massachusetts was highlighted by the successful pursuit of General Electric Co. by the Baker and Walsh administrations, said economist Barry Bluestone, founding director of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

“I would expect whoever acquired Biogen would continue to have a large presence in Massachusetts because this is a major research center,” Bluestone said. “But there would be less loyalty to the community, and when decisions are made on where to locate operations, they would be made somewhere else.”

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