c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

TOKYO — Japan’s largest drugmaker, Takeda Pharmaceutical, announced Friday that it had hired a GlaxoSmithKline executive to be its next chief operating officer.

The move is the latest in a spate of outside hires by Japanese corporations seeking to compete on a global scale, although the strategy to employ top foreign talent has not always ended well.

Takeda, which is based in Osaka, has been eager to compete in the top echelon of global drugmakers. The company said in a statement that Christophe Weber, president of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine arm, was scheduled to join Takeda as chief operating officer in April.

Weber, a French national, would assume the additional posts of president and representative director if approved at the company’s next general shareholders’ meeting in June, Takeda said. Weber will also be a candidate to be Takeda’s next chief executive, the statement said, an appointment that would make him one of a handful of non-Japanese chief executives at Japanese corporations.

“Takeda’s primary strategic management goal for the coming years is to transform Takeda into a company that is competitive on a global basis in every aspect of its business and organization,” the company said.

Takeda has recently pushed to globalize its management with a string of overseas hires. In September, it appointed François-Xavier Roger, chief financial officer at Millicom International Cellular of Luxembourg, to Takeda’s top finance job. The company has never had a foreign chief executive.

The current Takeda president, Yasuchika Hasegawa, has also been aggressive in making overseas acquisitions, spending $13.7 billion to buy Swiss drugmaker Nycomed and buying U.S. biotech firm Millennium for $8.8 billion in 2008.

Hasegawa will be named chairman at the shareholders’ meeting, Takeda said. Hasegawa, who is also chief executive, will keep that title until a successor is named, it said.

Weber, previously responsible for GlaxoSmithKline’s Asia-Pacific operations, will join a pharmaceutical company that is struggling to increase profits as a deluge of generic drugs threaten its mainstay treatments, like the Actos drug for diabetes.

Roger, the chief financial officer, is spearheading an aggressive cost-cutting drive that the company says could lead to substantial job cuts.

Like other Japanese corporations, Takeda has also been keen to expand its business overseas to make up for a shrinking population back home. In the latest fiscal year through March, over half its sales came from outside Japan.

A string of Japanese companies also looking to expand overseas have hired foreigners in recent years, appointments that have sometimes ended in discord and turmoil.

In the most prominent case, Michael C. Woodford, former president of the Japanese endoscope and camera maker Olympus, blew the whistle on accounting irregularities at the company. The 2011 scandal temporarily wiped out nine-tenths of Olympus’ share price and led to the arrest and conviction of several of its past executives.

Last year, Craig Naylor, the American chief executive of glass manufacturer Nippon Sheet Glass, abruptly resigned, citing differences of opinion over strategy. It was the glassmaker’s second non-Japanese chief executive to leave after short stints.

Some analysts have cited Japan’s traditionally insular business culture, centered on longstanding personal relationships, as a major obstacle to any outsider seeking to lead or change a Japanese corporation. Howard Stringer, Sony’s Welsh-born former chief executive, was largely unsuccessful in turning around the struggling electronics maker, which was riddled with factions.

On the other hand, Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese chief executive of Nissan and Renault, is widely credited with — and respected for — pulling the Japanese automaker back from the threat of bankruptcy in the 1990s. He remains Nissan chief executive.