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Jimenez to take over as Novartis chief

Published on 28/01/10 at 03:22pm
Joe Jimenez takes over as chief executive on 1 February

Novartis’ long-standing chief executive and chairman, Daniel Vasella is to step down from his dual position to focus upon his responsibilities as chairman.

Vasella has been chief executive of Novartis since it was created through a merger in 1996, but has decided to make way for Joe Jimenez, currently the company’s pharma division head.

Meanwhile three senior board members are to leave as part of a streamlining of the leadership team.

Chief operations officer Joerg Reinhardt, Andreas Rummelt, group head of quality assurance and technical operations and Thomas Wellauer, head of corporate affairs, will all leave the company, and the positions will no longer be present on the executive board.

David Epstein, currently head of the Novartis’ oncology business, the fastest growing unit in its pharma business, will become take over as head of the division. Jon Symonds will take over as chief financial officer in February from Raymund Breu, who will retire on 31 March, having reached the  mandatory retirement age. 

This organisational shift follows a number of other recent departures in top pharma management, with four of the top six pharma companies changing their chief executives over a two-year period.

“After 14 years as chief executive it is the right time to complete the carefully planned chief executive succession process, which started over a year ago,” said Vasella.

“The Board appointed Joe Jimenez, currently division head of our pharmaceutical business as new chief executive and also agreed to delayer and simplify the top leadership structure.

“The international experience in pharmaceuticals and consumer businesses together with an excellent track record destine Joe Jimenez to lead Novartis into a next phase of expansion and growth. I am convinced 2010 will be a year of significant progress.”

Jimenez told Reuters he shared Vasella’s strategic vision of ‘focused diversification’ to help the company continue its growth.

"We both believe that the portfolio now is broadly right to help us grow into the future so I don't anticipate seeing significant changes there. I'm going to step back and think through how we're going to set the agenda for the next few years."

The news was announced at the Swiss company’s annual results conference, with a net sales rise 11% in local currencies to $44.3 billion (+7% in dollars) achieved thanks to strong growth across its divisions and global markets.

Among the star performers was cancer treatment Glivec, which saw sales rise 12% to $3.9 billion.

The simplifying of the company’s leadership structure see its executive committee cut from 12 to nine.

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