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An Intriguing Turn of the Proxy Battle: Francis deSouza Resigns as Illumina CEO


DEF 14 Inc. June 12, 2023


In a dramatic turn of events, Francis deSouza, the CEO of Illumina Inc., has tendered his resignation, following an extended and highly contentious battle with prominent investor Carl Icahn. For those unfamiliar with the story, here's a simplified rundown:

  • Initially, deSouza managed to hold his ground against Icahn's aggressive moves, as he successfully secured re-election to Illumina's board of directors, along with seven other members.

  • However, Icahn gained an upper hand during the recent shareholders' meeting, when his nominee, Andrew Teno, secured a position on the board.

  • DeSouza, acknowledging the shifting tides, made the difficult decision to step down as CEO. In a heartfelt letter to the company's employees, he expressed gratitude for their support and pride in the accomplishments they achieved together.

  • To ensure a smooth transition, Charles Dadswell, the senior vice president and general counsel, has been appointed as interim CEO, while the company actively searches for a suitable replacement.

  • DeSouza will remain involved in an advisory capacity until the end of July, offering guidance during this critical period.


What did Francis deSouza say

Francis desouza outlines his next chapter in a letter to illumina employees:


“What's next for me? For now I am focused on helping with the leadership transition at Illumina. Beyond that, I will stay true to the mission of advancing humanity by harnessing breakthrough technologies. And I look forward to time with my wonderful daughters, especially since this is my youngest’s last year at home before she heads off to college.

I leave with a sense of fulfillment and pride in where we have all taken the company together. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve you and to serve Illumina.”


What did Carl Icahn say:

Carl Icahn expressess satisfaction with the outcome on his Twitter:




More Insights on this Noteworthy Shareholder Activist Campaign of the Year

If you’re interested in delving deeper into this gripping saga - here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Icahn launched his campaign for board seats earlier this year, criticizing Illumina's management and board for their handling of the acquisition and subsequent repurchase of Grail Inc., a cancer-detection firm. He also questioned the company's decision to proceed with the transaction despite opposition from European regulators. Here at DEF 14, we provided in-depth coverage of this event back in March. To catch up on the full story, click here.

  • Interestingly, Icahn himself faced recent challenges when a report raised doubts about the value of his investment firm and questioned its dividend payouts. He promptly dismissed the report as self-serving, but the controversy continued to simmer.

  • Adding to the intrigue, Icahn Enterprises, a company affiliated with Carl Icahn, revealed that it had received inquiries from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, seeking information about certain aspects of their operations. This unexpected twist has further complicated Icahn's ongoing endeavors.

In summary, the CEO of Illumina, Francis deSouza, has stepped down in the midst of an intense battle with investor Carl Icahn. As the company embarks on the search for a new leader, the unfolding saga continues to captivate both industry insiders and those new to the story. Stay tuned for further updates as this high-stakes corporate drama unfolds.

DEF 14: Empowering Your Unwavering Success in Shareholder Activism

The Illumina proxy battle carries significant implications not only for Illumina itself but also for the broader landscape of shareholder activism. It serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance for companies to proactively monitor and analyze emerging trends in this arena. By harnessing the power of our sophisticated shareholder activism intelligence software, companies can gain invaluable insights into the motivations, strategies, and tactics employed by activist investors. Armed with this knowledge, they can develop effective response strategies, mitigate risks, and foster constructive dialogue with their shareholders.


At DEF 14, we understand the pivotal role in keeping companies well-informed and equipped to navigate the intricate realm of shareholder activism. Our deep comprehension of the nuances of the Illumina proxy battle enables us to assist companies in enhancing their adaptability, responsiveness, and ability to make well-informed decisions when confronted with similar challenges. This heightened understanding ensures that all stakeholders involved can achieve the most favorable outcomes possible.


If you're looking to be more well-informed and equipped to successfully navigate the complexities of shareholder activism, we invite you to explore our offerings and get in touch with us. Let DEF 14 empower you for unwavering success in shareholder activism.

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