Why Brent Saunders is Pharma’s Go-To CEO and PM360’s Uber ELITE

Brenton “Brent” Saunders




If you are wondering, “What makes someone ELITE?”—look no further than Brent Saunders, our first Uber Elite winner who represents the very benchmark for Elite Award winners. At just 44, Brent has already run three major pharmaceutical companies, coordinated multi-billion dollar mergers within the industry and turned Actavis—formerly a generics manufacturer—into a top 10 pharma company.

A Tale of Three Companies—And One Intrepid CEO

There is just “something” about Brent that makes him instantly recognizable as a true leader. Company turnaround artist Fred Hassan saw it when he handpicked Brent as the CEO of Bausch & Lomb. “I just became convinced that this guy was going to be all-in,” Hassan told Forbes. “The people who look at doing a job as really something they enjoy doing, they are the people who are always going to do better than those who look upon it as a job.”

When searching for a new CEO for Forest Laboratories, another iconic American businessman, Carl Icahn saw it, too. “I interview a lot of people for top jobs,” Icahn told Forbes. “When I met him, in my mind, he stood out right at the top.”

Icahn and Hassan couldn’t have called it better. Brent’s actions as the CEO of those companies proved that he was without question the right person for the job. When Brent arrived at Bausch & Lomb, many in the industry felt that the company’s product pipeline was lacking—but he went to work and quickly turned that around. While serving as the chief executive at Bausch & Lomb, Brent led the company to sales growth of 9% a year and oversaw the introduction of 34 new products. This growth also made the company an attractive target and it was acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2013 for $8.7 billion. Then, while at Forest, Brent and the CEO of Actavis, Paul Bisaro, realized the incredible opportunities that could come about by combining the two companies—leading to a $28 billion deal.

Building Pharma’s Mega-Future

Now as the CEO of Actavis, Brent is the one doing the buying. The company recently acquired Allergan for $67 billion—the largest pharma merger in the past six years—creating a top 10 drug firm with 30,000 employees, and projected pro forma revenues of approximately $23 billion. But that is only the beginning of Brent’s vision for this newly combined company and the pharma industry as a whole.

Brent strongly believes that innovation related to drug development is critical to differentiate any pharmaceutical company of the future. The best way to impact the future of the healthcare industry is by forming partnerships and relationships with innovative academic institutions and licensing promising technologies from start-up organizations or smaller venture backed opportunities. Brent’s approach to research is to identify, fund and support those opportunities that represent the best chance for market success.

This CEO is committed to maintaining an efficient and highly productive R&D engine powered by an estimated $1.7 billion investment in 2015 for a broad variety of therapeutic areas. Compared to its peers, the combined company will have strong top-line growth—an important factor in their high-margin businesses—and could launch anywhere between seven to 10 new products this year.

Leveraging Six Blockbuster Brand Franchises

This will only add to what is already a strong branded pharmaceutical business expected to bring in approximately $15 billion a year thanks to six blockbuster brand franchises. These include: dermatology and aesthetics; CNS; ophthalmology; women’s health and urology; GI and cystic fibrosis; and cardiovascular and infectious disease. These blockbuster franchises are supported by the company’s industry-leading specialty and primary care U.S. sales force.

Of course, Actavis also remains dedicated to its roots with an industry-leading generics business. The company’s generics pipeline will deliver sustainable growth, with:

  • Approximately 230 ANDAs pending at the FDA, with more than 40 filed in 2014.
  • Leadership in First-to-Files (FTF), with 70 total FTFs and 25 new FTFs confirmed in 2014.
  • Continued focus on the development of complex, higher barrier to entry generic products.
  • Expanding international product portfolios, with nearly 1,000 marketing authorizations globally
    in 2014.

Strengthening Markets Around the Globe

And in terms of international expansion, the combined company will have a commercial presence across approximately 100 markets, under Brent’s leadership. This includes a stronger presence in Canada, Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America—as well as a footprint in China and India.

Forging a New Corporate Identity

Brent’s vision for the company also involves adopting a new corporate identity. Pending approval from shareholders, the company will go by one name—Allergan.

The Allergan name for the combined brand product portfolios recognizes its powerful heritage, while providing an umbrella of exceptional brand equity for an expanded and even more relevant global brand pharmaceutical portfolio. And it will communicate unequivocally what the new company stands for in the brand pharmaceutical space.

At just 44, Brent has already, and unequivocally, communicated what he stands for in this industry. One word: Elite.


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