Greg Parekh, Novartis

June 1, 2008

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

S

Greg Parekh

Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Novartis

PRIORITY #1: Teambuilding

TASKED WITH: Diversification

A cool $60 billion—that's the total deal "ka-ching" that Greg Parekh, age 39, has executed as Novartis' head of M&As, a job he left investment banking for in 2004. Why exit the high-flying financial services industry for pharma's bumpy road? "It was the senior management at Novartis—their entrepreneurial spirit, skills, and desire," Parekh says. "I saw a unique opportunity to change the way M&A was being done in the industry."

Greg Parekh

With change an imperative, Parekh hit the ground sprinting, reinventing the Swiss giant's M&A strategy in the mode of a quick-and-dirty investment banker's. "We apply a strict 80/20-type rule, where we only look at the things that really drive value," he says. "That allows us to go faster than some others." What's slow, he says, is "educating people around the strategy, spending the time to listen and understand key decision-makers points of view—and not being arrogant."

Parekh was tasked with the industry's most dramatic diversification strategy, inking a $10 billion deal to beef up Novartis' generics biz, plus the $39 billion tricky two-step purchase of Nestle's stake in Alcon in March—picking up Chiron's vaccines along the way. He also executed the sale of Novartis' $5.5 billion baby food business in three months' time—two or three times faster than normal. "The people on the project thought we were nuts, but at the end they were impressed that we accomplished more than they thought possible," he recalls. And he didn't even need to lock everyone in a room until the work was done. "It's not just sticking a gun to people's heads," he says. "It's getting people to want it themselves, to be excited about a common goal." A serious innovator, an inspiring manager, a guy who can't say no to a challenge—Parekh sure sounds like the real deal. Would he like to become the CEO of a big pharma someday? "I'm taking it one step at a time," he says without missing a beat.