After Kindler, at some risk to his reputation at GE, took a seat at the defense table and won a big antitrust case—in which
the government accused GE of colluding with DeBeers to fix the prices of industrial diamonds—Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, made
him an officer of the company. Later, Kindler would tell friends that he "earned his MBA under Jack Welch." When McDonald's
called in 1995, Heineman remembers, Kindler was in his early 40s and had become established and comfortable as a key senior
lawyer on one of the top in-house legal staffs in the world.
"He knew he would have to start over in a new industry and reshape an organization with much less talent than he had at GE,"
Heineman says. "The fact that he took that job at McDonald's is consistent with his willingness to take risks."
Pfizer's Top Lawman
One of his assignments at the fast-food giant was to buy the real estate of Boston Market out of bankruptcy, so that the company
could convert the locations into McDonald's stores. However, Kindler felt that the brand was still strong and proposed that
the company try to run the locations as Boston Market stores. He got the assignment to oversee Boston Market, and eventually
became CEO of all partner brands, including Pret a Manger, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Donato's Pizzeria. Did Kindler's experience
running consumer brands make him a more attractive candidate for Pfizer?
"That played no factor," says McKinnell, who notes that Kindler does blend a rare understanding of business with his grasp
of the law. "In fact, we were kind of wondering why he would do that."
The remarks of his boss notwithstanding, Kindler is likely to find breadth of executive experience a key advantage at Pfizer,
a company with a bigger budget and more contact with foreign governments than many countries. As the largest company in a
heavily regulated industry, Kindler says, Pfizer faces the broadest conceivable range of legal issues: from international
regulatory and policy issues to class-action lawsuits; from trademark-infringement litigation to the merger-and-acquisition
deals of Big Pharma's pipeline crisis. Not to mention defending 300 patent suits in some 50 countries around the world. The
big job commands princely pay. Kindler earned $1.9 million in salary and bonus in 2005, more than any other general counsel
in pharma, according to an annual survey of SEC proxy filings by Corporate Counsel magazine. Kindler's annual compensation totaled $5.2 million, including stock options, shares, and other benefits, according
to the proxy statement.
Meet the Enemy
"I try to convey to our lawyers that we're not here just to practice law for the sake of practicing law," says Kindler. "We're
here to help this business succeed. And one of the distinguishing characteristics of a good inside lawyer, in my judgment,
is the ability to look for practical, businesslike solutions to problems, and we try very hard to do that." With 440 lawyers
on staff, according to a directory of in-house law departments maintained by Corporate Counsel, that means delegating authority. Kindler meets every couple of weeks with key reports but keeps closer tabs on certain issues,
like Lipitor (atorvastatin) lawsuits.