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CEO, US Pharmaceuticals, Novartis
PROMOTED: April 2008
The most recent promotion in CEO Daniel Vasella's executive shake-up is Novartis veteran Ludwig Hantson, PhD, the brand new head of the Swiss giant's US business. Hantson, 45, is likely as close to a white knight as Novartis has—fresh from prior stints leading the US specialty drug unit and Europe's pharma business. The new gig should offer him the opportunity to show off his sharp skills dealing with penny-pinching payers.
And based on his track record, it could also lead to bigger things. No one at Novartis is better prepped to succeed Vasella in the top job. Over 22 years, Hantson has hop-scotched from humble sales rep to clinical development to marketing maven to management. "I was eager to learn, so I chose to move from one function to another, sometimes starting from scratch," he says. "I took risks."
Cross-functional, global, risk-taking—that's pharma's future in shorthand. But first Hantson has to pass his toughest test—making Wall Street smile on Novartis again by reversing its plunge in US sales. "We need to get closer to the customer, whether that's patients, physicians, or payers, and build their needs into our strategic plans," he says.
One month in, he's getting good grades from Café Pharma posters, but no word yet from Basel. When asked if he would like to be CEO of a large-cap, Hantson plays it straight. "That's a rhetorical question," he says. "Of course. Otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here."