The GC-to-CEO phenomenon is still news, I guess. When something happens to a lawyer-led company, the legal background is often noted.
Today’s Wall Street Journal mentions the ex-GC status of Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler in an article about the cessation of clinical tests of the promising heart drug torcetrapib. As the WSJ sees it:
The debacle has revived doubts on Wall Street about whether Mr. Kindler is the right man to run the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. After all, he joined Pfizer only a few years ago, and before becoming CEO functioned only as general counsel. He won out over two industry veterans with deep experience to get the top job. Does he really have what it takes?
Just how stopping development of a drug because of deaths is a debacle will be left to the biotech or stock-picking bloggers out there. Perhaps someone at Pfizer had heard of Vioxx.
But most lawyers (and any GC) has to love the characterization of Mr. Kindler’s prior Pfizer job history as having “functioned only as general counsel.”
Somehow when US CEOs for decades came from finance or marketing or engineering, those disciplines were seen as good seasoning.
Mr. Kindler made a tough call. One driven by the high risks faced by big pharmas imposed by the FDA process, uneven law and gunslinger plaintiff attorneys. Just ask Merck over the aforementioned Vioxx.
Was his GC experience a liability in this case? I think not. I think it was a clear asset.
And, by the way, the real news is that the Pfizer legal department develops exceptional attorneys who deliver creative, bottom-line solutions.
Mere functioning? Hardly.