INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL
Q: What’s your first order of business after becoming CEO?
A: Execute. We have a great opportunity here. We’ve come out of the Y-Z period. We’ve turned over a number of cards, positive data readouts on a number of products. And really, 2017 is a year of execution for us to really fulfill the value we see in those products and get them to patients.
Q: So what exactly are you doing between now and then to get ready for your big promotion?
A: I’ve spent a lot of time with John Lechleiter, learning from the master, stepping into the new job and getting my frame there. I’m also spending a fair amount of time outside the company. It’s a unique window when you have a few months to listen with new ears to investors, to key customers. I’m taking a bit of a listening tour with payer-customers and other thought leaders that we work with. And then also spending a fair amount of time with our manufacturing group and our research group because those are two areas where I haven’t had direct oversight before.
Q: Are you going to continue John Lechleiter’s strategy of shunning big mergers and acquisitions?
A: Yes. I haven’t a shred of evidence that any of those big mergers have created value for shareholders or other constituents. They’ve probably destroyed value. And frankly, when I speak to our largest investors, they think the same thing. Although you can get some short-term costs savings by closing plants and reducing operations, that’s not a sustainable path. We have a business that, when you do it well, you make a difference for people but you can also produce good margins. So the key is launching products and growing, not acquiring things and cutting costs.
Q: What disease areas do you plan to invest most significantly in over the next five years?
A: We’ve spent a lot of time in the last seven or eight years narrowing down from nine areas of interest for the company to five. Of course, diabetes has been a huge part of Lilly for a long time; that’s a key area for us to invest in. Oncology is another area of keen interest, and there’s lots of exciting science happening there. In the group I’m leading now, immunology — which is treating auto-inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis —(there’s) a lot of promising science behind that. And then Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration; we have a deep and broad portfolio there. And then an emerging one is pain. It’s a smaller effort in an earlier stage, but there’s a really big public health crisis around chronic-pain management. Lilly is working on new modalities to treat chronic pain without the problems of addiction and other issues with opioids.
Q: What’s your favorite question to ask job candidates?
A: The thing I’ve learned through the years is that if someone really wants something, they tend to do pretty well. So I ask them why they want to work in this company and in this industry. I think motive is pretty telling. No matter their skill or background, if they’re highly driven, they tend to do pretty well here.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: Most of my free time is occupied in being a parent. I have three kids, including two teenagers, so that’s a full-time effort when I go home. I stand on soccer fields and cross-country tracks, and I’m shuttling them around. For a pastime, I’ve grown up as a backpacker, and I like trekking trips. My father and I started that when I was a kid. I’m a former Eagle Scout. My sons are into that as well. So that’s something we spend time on when we get a week or so to get out West and walk up a mountain.
Q: Favorite sport to watch?
A: College basketball.
Q: What kind of car do you drive?
A: I have a 7-year-old Audi. And I like it, so I’m going to keep it for a while.
Q: What’s your favorite property in Monopoly and why?
A: Tennessee, New York and St. James — the orange ones right near the Free Parking. I like those because everyone always lands on them. I’m a capitalist. I like customers.