Leading Japanese drug maker has appointed a French executive from GlaxoSmithKline as its next president, a bold move in Japanese corporate culture.

The board directors at Takeda Pharmaceutical approved 47-year-old Christophe Weber from its major British rival as chief operating officer and candidate as the next chief executive.

Weber will eventually replace Yasuchika Hasegawa, 67, as president, and will become the first non-Japanese chief in 230 years of history at the Osaka-based firm.

His appointment as COO is expected to take effect before the end of April.

“We have extremely high expectations for Weber’s contributions to further enhance and accelerate the implementation of Takeda’s global strategy,” Hasegawa said in a statement.

Hasegawa headed the company for 11 years. He had long proposed that a Japanese executive should succeed him but retraced his intial comments during a press conference last month, saying he was not adverse to the appointment of a foreign executive.

Weber was educated at the University of Lyon and held various positions at GSK in Europe as well as the United States and the Asia Pacific region.

Takeda’s rare overseas head-hunting comes at a time when many Japanese companies are facing intense pressure to expand overseas.

Although several firms such as Nissan Motor Co, Sony Corp, Nippon Sheet Glass Co and Olympus Corp, have been headed or are headed by foreign executives, many of them were invited over following a merger or tie-up, or were promoted from within the company.

Takeda operates in more than 70 countries following its 2011 acquisition of major Swiss-based rival Nycomed for $14 billion (about 1.4 trillion yen).

By Maesie Bertumen