Valeant Pharmaceuticals is Soldiering On - Pharmaceutical Executive


Valeant Pharmaceuticals is Soldiering On

Pharmaceutical Executive

"When GlaxoSmithKline came together, Tim and I were involved in all the manufacturing rationalization for 109 plants. He and I went to almost all the factories," scattered throughout 41 countries, Wheeler says. "Once you've done some tough stuff, it's hard to go back to a normal functioning company. I love turnarounds. I loved the fact that it was a screwed-up mess."

Wheeler's at Valeant because he thrives on the challenge. But he's also there out of utmost devotion to his leader. Whenever possible, he'll divert the spotlight from himself or his teammates onto Tyson. Sometimes, when his boss succumbs to his innate struggle to elaborate on himself, Wheeler picks up the pieces.

For example, when Tyson lets slip that he was in a rock band in high school, Wheeler relates a fuller version of the story: "Tim used to run the sales force at Glaxo. At the time, we had about 4,000 reps. We'd have about half of them gathered in the room, and Tim would get up and play the guitar and sing. I have seen Tim introduce some pretty big-shot guys, like Colin Powell and other celebrities, but you never got as big a rise out of the sales force as when the president got up and started playing the guitar."

If Wheeler came to Valeant primarily for Tyson, Kim Lamon, the company's president of R&D and chief scientific officer (CSO), was attracted by the science. Lamon makes no mention of Tyson in describing how he arrived at the company, a process to which he refers as "The ICN Saga." The former internist and pharmacologist first joined ICN in August 2002, when a dissident shareholder asked him to replace a recently ousted board member. Lamon was later named president and CEO of ICN's Ribapharm subsidiary in January 2003, and appointed president and CSO for Valeant upon its reacquisition of Ribapharm in September 2003.

Lamon first got his taste of the business end of things as corporate senior vice president and group president of Covance Clinical and Periapproval Services. "I have always liked the interface of business and science. I am not one of those medics who thinks they are incompatible." Immediately before moving to Valeant, Lamon was president of SciPharma Consulting, which consults to the biotechnology, diagnostics, and pharmaceutical industries.

He took the plunge because of what he saw below the surface. "The appeal was partly the science—the self-funded, doing-it-the-way-you-know-is-the-right-way part," Lamon says. "I had been doing R&D, but I also was involved in mergers and acquisitions and trying to get R&D groups to work with companies. As a consultant, I was doing that with smaller companies. When I got here, I thought, 'How would I like doing this, but on a billion-dollar scale versus a 10-million-dollar scale?'"

As far as most investors and analysts are concerned, a big question mark still looms over whether Valeant will in fact become a billion-dollar-a-year company. "Investors have been continually skeptical on a lot of fronts," says Rich Watson, analyst for William Blair & Co. "The real question in terms of not just turning around, but also growing into a major pharma company, is whether Valeant can succeed in commercializing the pipeline as it exists today. That's the part of the equation that should be up for debate."

At the same time, it's the undying reluctance of Tyson, Bailey, Wheeler, Lamon, and the eight other members of Valeant's senior management team to entertain that very debate that makes it hard not to take the company seriously.

"We won't be the same company in a few years," says Chuck Bramlage, president of Valeant's European operations. "Either the pipeline hits, or through our board members there will be opportunities to merge. I don't care how it looks, whether with products from other companies or together with other companies, but this management team can do it. We always talk about $1.4 billion, but I am sure we can be a lot bigger than that."


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