The founder of BenevolentAI is leading a boardroom coup at the high-profile MedTech.

Ken Mulvany has ousted chair Dr François Nader and non-executive directors Dr Olivier Brandicourt, Dr Susan Liautaud and Marcello Damiani. All four will resign at the company’s AGM on 2nd May 2024.

Dr Moeller, senior independent director Jean Raby and non-exec directors Prof Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Dr John Orloff will all continue in their respective positions.

Mulvany, who founded the company in 2013, left the board 18 months ago when it listed on the Euronext exchange in Amsterdam via a SPAC merger which valued it at more than £1 billion. He retains a stake of more than 23%.

BenevolentAI has since seen its shares slump by more than 90%, with a market cap today of around £84 million. Mulvany outlined “serious concerns about the company’s cost management, business development resourcing, strategy, investor relations and governance” in a recent letter to Dr Nader.

He proposes to replace the four with Peter Allen, Jeremy Sohn, Ian Nicholson and himself – subject to approval at the AGM – with Allen acting as chair and himself as deputy chair.

A former darling of the UK AI scene, London-headquartered BenevolentAI endured a turbulent 2023 which saw it announce plans to lay off 180 staff in May as its CFO resigned. The planned cost savings of £45m were intended to extend its cash runway to at least July 2025.

Baroness Joanna Shields OBE – a former government minister who had built the company up from a startup over five years as CEO – then resigned in September amid other executive changes. Dr Nader was appointed interim CEO before Dr Moeller joined in January.

BenevolentAI recently saw its CTO leave after seven years at the firm. However it has signed a strategic collaboration with pharma giant Merck KGaA worth a potential $594m.

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Dr Nader responded: “The board acknowledges that our dialogue with Mr Mulvany, our largest shareholder, has resulted in an agreement which we believe is in the best interests of shareholders, and broader stakeholders, and the stability of our operations and creates the potential to establish a governance platform for the future progress and value creation of the business, in the best interest of patients.”

“It has been a privilege to lead this excellent board and I would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Olivier, Susan and Marcello for their significant contributions to the board since joining. The company has benefited significantly from their wise counsel and experience.”

For the 12 months ended 31st December 2023, revenue at the firm decreased to £7.3m (2022: £10.6m) – primarily reflecting decreased revenues from its collaboration with AstraZeneca, partly offset by the new Merck collaboration – while operating losses were £77.6m (2022: £197m).

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