Idexx Laboratories Inc. Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ayers is giving up his leadership role permanently in the wake of a bicycling accident in June that injured his spinal cord and paralyzed most of his body.

Idexx CEO Jon Ayers has been on medical leave since late June, when a bike accident left him with serious injuries to his spine. Courtesy photo

Idexx, a fast-growing veterinary diagnostics firm based in Westbrook, announced in early July that Ayers had been injured in a cycling accident on June 27 and was taking medical leave. The company appointed Executive Vice President Jay Mazelsky as interim president and CEO in Ayers’ absence.

Ayers filed an updated statement in late July with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying that he had limited arm and wrist movement but no mobility or sensory perception in his legs, torso and fingers. He said the accident did not cause any head trauma or brain injury.

Ayers told the SEC he was undergoing extensive rehabilitation at one of the country’s top facilities. He issued a follow-up statement Thursday, saying his rehabilitation was ongoing and that he would not be able to resume his role as chief executive. However, Ayers said he would continue working with Idexx as a director and senior adviser to the board.

“While the nature of my spinal cord injury and my continuing need to focus on an extended rehabilitation process preclude me from returning to Idexx as CEO, my passion for the company and its purpose has not diminished,” Ayers said in the prepared statement.

Ayers has not shared publicly any details about the progress of his rehabilitation therapy or the circumstances leading to his injury, except to say that it occurred while on an outing with a cycling group he met with regularly.

Responding to a request for comment on Ayers’ current health condition, Idexx said there is no clear prognosis for Ayers’ recovery because the rate of progression of spinal cord injury rehabilitation is always difficult to project, as no two injuries or patients are the same.

The Idexx board of directors said it has appointed Mazelsky as president and CEO of the company, effective immediately. Lawrence Kingsley, the board’s lead director, has been appointed independent chairman of the Idexx board, effective Nov. 1, it said.

“I am delighted with Jay’s appointment as president and CEO and have complete confidence in his ability to lead Idexx forward,” Ayers said in his statement. “I look forward to continuing to support the company as a member of the board and as a senior adviser, and I know much success lies ahead for Idexx.”

Mazelsky joined Idexx in August 2012 as an executive vice president overseeing a variety of the company’s business units including the commercial division of its North American companion animal group. His prior experience includes serving as a senior vice president and general manager at Philips Healthcare, a subsidiary of Dutch multinational conglomerate Philips.

His previous employers include Hewlett-Packard and its spin-off company Agilent Technologies. Mazelsky earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Rochester and a master of business administration degree from the University of Chicago.

“I am thrilled to lead Idexx and I look forward to further building on our progress and driving enduring long-term value for shareholders and customers by advancing our purpose to enhance the health and well-being of pets, people and livestock,” Mazelsky said Thursday in a prepared statement. “I thank Jon for his mentorship and leadership of the company and look forward to his continued contributions as a board member and senior adviser.”

CHANGES AT THE TOP

Idexx is the second of Maine’s four non-bank publicly traded companies to announce a permanent change in its top leadership this week. On Tuesday, Portland-based Covetrus Inc., a veterinary technology and services firm, announced that Benjamin Shaw had stepped down as president and CEO less than nine months after the company’s launch in February. Covetrus posted a net loss in its most recent quarter that shocked analysts and sparked an investor lawsuit alleging securities fraud.

Idexx and Covetrus belong to the same industry and even share a founder in common, Benjamin Shaw’s father, David Shaw, who founded Idexx and later co-founded Covetrus predecessor Vets First Choice with his son. However, the reasons for their respective leadership changes this week are completely unrelated.

Coincidentally, MaineHealth announced Wednesday that its top management – William Caron, CEO, and Rich Petersen, president – were announcing their impending retirements from the Portland-based health care system.

Idexx, which produces veterinary diagnostic testing equipment, software and other products, has consistently produced solid earnings growth over the past several years. In its most recent quarterly earnings report issued Aug. 1, the company said revenue was up by 7 percent from a year earlier, and that net income had increased by 16 percent.

Idexx reported quarterly revenue of $620 million, compared with $581 million for the same period a year earlier, and quarterly net income of $126 million, or $1.43 per share, compared with $109 million, or $1.23 per share, for the same period a year earlier.

Idexx reported revenue of $2.2 billion in 2018, up 12 percent from the previous year. Its net income in 2018 was $377 million, a 22 percent increase from the year before. It received city approval in 2018 to construct a multilevel, 135,000-square-foot expansion to its Westbrook headquarters that will accommodate 600 additional workers when completed.

The company has been headquartered in Westbrook since 1991. It has about 3,000 employees in Maine and more than 8,000 worldwide. It is Maine’s largest publicly traded company in terms of market capitalization, or the number of outstanding shares multiplied by the value of each share.

Idexx shares trade on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol IDXX. Following the announcement about the company’s leadership change early Thursday, the value of Idexx shares remained largely unchanged from the previous day’s closing price at roughly $268.33 per share at Thursday’s market close.

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