(Bloomberg) --

Union Investment, one of the biggest shareholders of Bayer AG, criticized the supervisory board chairman of the group whose chief executive officer is already under attack by activist investors.

Chairman Norbert Winkeljohann “is seeking dialogue with investors, but should have initiated more,” Markus Manns, portfolio manager at Union Investment, told WirtschaftsWoche magazine. “It would definitely have been a matter for the supervisory board to help initiate a spinoff of Consumer Health.”

The boards of Novartis AG and GSK Plc are much more committed when it comes to creating value for shareholders, Manns said. Union Investment owns a 1.4% stake in Bayer.  

Earlier this month, Manns told Bloomberg News that Bayer faces a “toxic mix” of challenges, so that “staying the course is no longer an option.” While suggesting a potential sale of Bayer’s consumer-health division, he said “it’s too early” for a full breakup of the group.

Bluebell Capital Partners has built a stake in Bayer and is pushing for a breakup, as Bloomberg News has reported. The activist shareholder has asked the company to separate its crop science business from its pharmaceutical unit, as well as to explore a sale or listing of its consumer-health arm. Bluebell is also calling for a new independent chairman for its supervisory board, according to people familiar with the matter.

Elliott Investment Management has called on Bayer to consider splitting up, and activist investor Jeff Ubben took a stake in the company, too. Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann has been under pressure from shareholders since the company’s 2018 deal to buy crop science giant Monsanto. That made Bayer the world’s biggest agriculture company but saddled it with immense legal battles it’s still struggling to resolve.

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