Valeant Pharmaceuticals is Soldiering On

Nov 01, 2005
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

There's a word you hear a lot at West Point: huah.(It's the word Al Pacino rode to an Oscar as the retired Infantry colonel in Scent of a Woman.) Huah is an all-purpose expression. Want to describe a cadet who's very gung-ho, you call them huah. Understand instructions, say huah. Agree with what another cadet just said, murmur huah. Impressed by someone else's accomplishment, a soft reflective huah.

The explanation comes from the pen of David Lipsky, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, who found himself against his wishes saddled with an assignment to write about the United States Military Academy. The product of an anti-military upbringing, Lipsky had some preconceived unfavorable notions about the academy, which were promptly validated when West Point's public affairs office insisted that the reporter's interviewees be hand selected (not by Lipsky) and conversations monitored. Finding the conditions unworkable, Lipsky opted out of the assignment, only to receive a call a few days later from a West Point colonel singing a different tune: Lipsky was welcome to talk to whomever he wanted, whenever he wanted. West Point had nothing to hide.

Inspired Decision: Bary Bailey, CFO (left), and Chuck Bramlage, president of Europe, are two members of Valeant's revamped management team. Each joined, in large part, because of Tyson.
The result was Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point (Vintage Books, 2004), an account of Lipsky's four years spent among the academy's cadets. The book tells an entirely different story from the one the author assumed he'd tell. Lipsky discovered that West Point fosters hard working, selfless, intelligent men and women, not unnecessary harshness and hypocrisy. It's the kind of thing many in the pharmaceutical industry wish would be revealed about them. If someone wanted to write that book, they could do far worse than to start by talking to Tim Tyson, a West Point graduate and CEO and president of Costa Mesa, California-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Until almost a year into Tyson's tenure, Valeant (in name) didn't exist. It was ICN Pharmaceuticals, a famously tainted company whose founder and ex-CEO, Milan Panic, was known less for developing medicines, and more for his involvement in sexual harassment lawsuits and insider trading. After fed-up shareholders forced Panic out in June 2002, a new management team began arriving. In November 2003, ICN undewent a major rebranding effort, part of which involved changing the company's name. (The new name, Valeant, was inspired by the Latin prefix val, meaning strong and healthy.) Today, Valeant has entirely new leadership, eight thousand fewer employees, a company-wide program underway to increase efficiency, and four late-stage pipeline products in development. Intent on sticking to the strategic plan it put in place at the beginning of 2003, the $683 million-a-year (2004 revenues) specialty pharma company is committed to doubling sales to $1.4 billion and tripling earnings to more than $1.90 per share by 2008. Huah.

Commanding Opportunity

Tyson arrived at what's now Valeant in December of 2002 from GlaxoSmithKline, where he worked for 14 years, most recently, as president of global manufacturing and supply. Interim CEO and chairman Rob O'Leary recruited Tyson to join the company as chief operating officer with the understanding that he would be groomed for the top job. He officially took over as CEO and president (O'Leary remains chairman of the board) in January 2005.

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