Bayer AG’s proposed $62 billion purchase of seed maker Monsanto Co. could mean the end of one of the most derided names in corporate history.
As it has with earlier takeovers, Bayer would probably abandon the target’s brand name should the deal go through, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bayer no longer uses the Schering AG name after buying the company for about $22 billion in 2006.
Monsanto has sold genetically modified seeds for two decades, making it a lightning rod for activists who say the technology carries potential health risks. A review last weekfrom the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found genetically engineered crops don’t pose additional dangers to humans compared with conventionally bred foods. The company also has been faulted for the legal tactics used to enforce its patents, accused of being a factor in farmer suicides in India, and blamed for contributing to the decline of the monarch butterfly. While Monsanto has rejected criticism in each case, the controversies have marred its image.
“It is too early to speculate about what the name of the company is going to be,” Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann said in an interview with Tom Keene and Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television’s Surveillance. “But let me tell you that Bayer’s name and Bayer’s reputation stand for science, innovation and an utmost level of responsibility for societal needs, and that is what we are going to leverage on, also for the combined company going forward.”
The combination of Bayer’s crop-chemicals business and Monsanto’s seed operations would create the largest such company in the world.
Monsanto, based in St. Louis, garnered a “poor” rating in Harris Poll’s 2015 study of America’s most loved and hated companies. It ranked fourth-lowest — not as bad as bottom-of-the-table Goldman Sachs Group Inc., but lagging behind companies including BP Plc and Halliburton Co., both of which were involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.