"I wanted the opportunity to run my own show and work with people I had regard for," Tyson says. "In life, you always say,
'I'd be so great if I had the chance to work together with a certain group of people.' This was that opportunity."
But why ICN, a company embroiled in lingering lawsuits and notorious for doing bad business?
"ICN had a platform that was able to be restructured to deliver some easy, near-term profits and a future big opportunity,"
Tyson says, referring to Valeant's most promising pipeline product, Viramidine (taribavirin). Viramidine, a treatment for
hepatitis C, is a pro-drug that is converted by an enzyme in the liver into ribavirin.
Ribavirin was Valeant's main source of revenue until April 2004, when it went off patent in the United States (see "Battle
Ahead" section below). "The company had about $700 million in sales," says Tyson, "and $300 million in royalties [from Schering-Plough,
which licensed the drug and sold it under the name of Rebetol]. Take the $300 million in royalties away and look at the next
level: That $700 million in sales was costing over $900 million to generate. It was losing money."
From the perspective of a turnaround, that was an advantage. "If you looked at what that $900 million was being spent on,"
Tyson says, "my feeling was that it would be pretty easy to reduce that without doing anything beyond restructuring and giving
some efficiency in the operations. I figured that if you get the right people involved, good people make good things happen."
Born in Hornell, New York, Tyson left his hometown at 14, when Hornell's lifeblood, its railroad, went bankrupt and put his
dad out of a job. His family moved to Ithaca, where Cornell University is, so Tyson's father could get a computer-programming
job at the college. Inspired by his Marine dad, Tyson went to West Point (class of 1974) and later served five years in the
Army. He remained in the reserves and went to work as a manufacturing manager for Procter & Gamble. From there, he joined
Bristol-Myers, where he worked throughout the eighties, holding posts in both R&D and operations. Tyson has been married to
the same woman, his sister's best friend from high school, for 31 years. Together, they have a 29-year-old son, a corporate
film producer living in New York City whose wife works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The matter-of-fact simplicity with which Tyson describes his background makes believable the notion that he'd let instinct
guide him in taking the reins of a company teetering on the edge. But don't be fooled by the CEO's down-home demeanor. He
has another side—a meticulous, deliberate attention to detail that shows in his remarkable posture, the way he pauses before
every answer, and how he refuses to so much as glance at a cell phone that vibrates while he's mid-sentence. It helps explain
the disciple-like loyalty displayed by his subordinates, many of whom gave up posts as CEOs or presidents to join Tyson at
Valeant. "We are at Valeant for Tim Tyson" rolls off the tongues of senior management like a mantra.
Trading white coats: Valeant's head of R&D, Kim Lamon, followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a doctor. But the business
side of science proved to be his great passion.