May 3, 2016 – Following on the heels of its recent placement of Joe Papa as chief executive of Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Frederic Eshelman and Thomas W. Ross Sr. as company directors, Odgers Berndtson has now placed three additional board nominees into contention at the Canadian-based global pharma giant. Dr. Argeris N. Karabelas, Russel C. Robertson and Amy B. Wechsler M.D., have been nominated for seats on the company’s board of directors.
The search was led by Odgers U.S. vice chairman and director John Hawkins, who heads the firm’s U.S. life sciences practice and serves as a member of the search firm’s global board practice. Mr. Hawkins and his team spearheaded the other three Valeant placements within the last month.
“As we transition to new leadership, it is a natural time to welcome three independent nominees who bring important new perspective and expertise to the board,” said Robert N. Power, chairman of the Valeant board nominating and corporate governance committee.
“The five new non-executive directors bring, by design, a wide range of skills, experience and perspective to the board, adding to and complementing the experience of the other six sitting directors,” said Mr. Hawkins. “Collectively, these new directors bring fresh perspective, outstanding reputations, proven judgment, wisdom, and experience focused in areas where the company’s shareholders sought expertise.”
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Since 2001, Dr. Karabelas has been a partner at Care Capital, LLC, a life sciences venture firm. Prior to that, he was founder and chairman at Novartis BioVenture Fund. He also served as head of healthcare and CEO of Worldwide Pharmaceuticals for Novartis Pharma AG, with responsibilities for Novartis Pharma, Ciba Vision, Generics and strategic and operational leadership of research and development.
Mr. Robertson has served as executive vice president and head, anti-money laundering, at BMO Financial Group, a diversified financial services organization since 2013. He previously served as CFO of BMO Financial Group. Before this, he spent over 35 years as a chartered accountant. In this capacity, he held various senior positions with a number of major accounting firms, including holding the positions of vice chair at Deloitte & Touche LLP in Toronto, and Canadian managing partner at Arthur Andersen.
Dr. Wechsler has been a practicing dermatologist in New York City since 2005. She is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry and is also an adjunct clinical professor in psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College. As an expert on skin health, Dr. Wechsler serves as an advisor for Chanel Skin Care. She is an active member of several medical professional organizations, including the American Academy of Dermatology; the American Psychiatric Association; the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the Independent Doctors of New York; The Physicians Scientific Society; and The Skin Cancer Foundation.
“The most respected, successful leaders of the global pharmaceutical industry share a bedrock principle: Patients come first,” said Mr. Hawkins. “This translates into a genuine care for the long term well-being of patients and is reflected in every aspect of the company’s strategy, from drug development to the conduct of clinical trials, product launch / promotion, drug pricing, access and reimbursement.”
When discussing what the future holds for the pharmaceutical sector, Mr. Hawkins said the pharmaceutical industry has historically been one populated by companies which generate enormous amounts of cash flow from operations, thereby self-funding their drug development, product launch and commercialization activities. Most of the pharma majors, he said, have substantial cash balances, minimal long-term indebtedness, low debt-to-equity ratios, and seldom choose to access the capital markets.
“On the other hand,” he added, “the biotech industry – especially those organizations with market capitalizations under $5 billion and those with no or few products on the market – is generally reliant on external sources of equity capital, which include primarily capital from strategic investors and traditional global equity capital markets.”
So, what types of industry leaders might that call for?
Steve Potter, managing partner, U.S. operations for Odgers Berndtson, said: “Beyond care for patients, successful global pharma CEOs will be adept at recruiting, hiring, and retaining a team of leaders who have a special understanding of how pharmaceutical drug candidates / products and the marketplace intersect, including an understanding of R&D risk-return, unmet medical needs, pharmacological nuances, go-to-market product positioning and niches, pharmaceutical promotional strategies, global / territorial opportunities and challenges in pharmaceutical commercialization, and an acute sensitivity to regulators and payers around the world.”
He added that “overlaid on these many qualities is the ability of the CEO to provide strategic direction, manage to a bottom line, liaise with investors, transact with strategic parties, and successfully drive long-term growth in the revenues and profitability of the business.” A tall order, he said, for and industry leader, but especially those leading in the global pharma sector.
In the last year, Odgers Berndtson has completed nearly 20 non-executive director assignments in the pharma / biotech industry. The firm currently has an additional dozen underway.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media