Cellular Dynamics Sale a Windfall For Founders, Execs, & Board Members

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Fujifilm’s $307 million acquisition of Cellular Dynamics International (NASDAQ: ICEL) is officially a done deal, and that means a big payday for the company’s top executives and board members.

The biggest winner in the deal was CDI co-founder and stem cell pioneer James Thomson (pictured right), who earned $16.9 million, according to SEC documents. The next-biggest payouts went to CEO Bob Palay and his brother, company president Tom Palay, who received more than $2.5 million each for their stock options. Each brother will also get a piece of another $11.3 million payment for shares they jointly controlled via a family-owned limited liability company, SEC documents show.

The Palays could get an additional $3.2 million each if Tokyo-based Fujifilm decides to terminate their jobs, according to the filings. Xconomy reached out to CDI to find out if the management team will remain in place, at least for now, but a company spokeswoman declined to comment and Bob Palay has yet to respond to an e-mail inquiry.

Fujifilm and Madison, WI-based CDI announced the deal on March 30. But it didn’t close until last week because the companies needed to secure the necessary regulatory approvals and settle three shareholders’ class-action lawsuits challenging the sale.

With the acquisition completed, the next few months could be interesting to watch as Fujifilm’s plans for CDI start taking shape.

CDI uses stem cell technology to manufacture living human cells in massive quantities, which can be used in drug safety testing, cell banking, and research into cell-based therapies. Fujifilm has said CDI will continue operating as a subsidiary and will maintain its offices in Madison and Novato, CA.

But Fujifilm also intends to find useful ways to combine CDI’s technology and expertise with related products and research from another subsidiary, Japan Tissue Engineering, as well as technology Fujifilm has developed in-house. Fujifilm’s plan is to “seek synergies and efficiencies to be more competitive in the field of drug discovery and regenerative medicine,” CEO Shigetaka Komori said in the press release announcing the CDI acquisition.

That could mean some job cuts for CDI, as is often the case in these types of deals. It could also mean new initiatives that open up new possibilities for CDI to contribute to advances in regenerative medicine, unfettered by the financial pressures that weighed on CDI before its new backer came along.