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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

This Week: Kudos to Novartis — Gaffes by HP

Leadership Kudos of the Week go to Novartis Chair Daniel Vasella and CEO Joe Jimenez: Vasella for his courageous strategies of internal investment in research and diversification into generic drugs, vaccines, and eye care, and Jimenez for his skillful implementation of these challenging strategies. Vasella’s decision to invest heavily in new research headquarters in Boston has led to continuing flow of breakthrough drugs, including recent treatments for multiple sclerosis and gout. Instead of buying other pharma companies, he diversified into generic drugs (now second largest in world), vaccines (creator of H1N1 vaccine), and eye care with $52 billion bet on global leader Alcon. Jimenez is making all these moving parts grow in unison. The stock market, finally recognizing Novartis stands out from pharmaceutical industry’s problems, this week pushed NVS stock to all-time high of $63.35, making its $167 billion market capitalization second highest in industry behind J&J. Since the start of 2000, Novartis stock is up 71% compared to 59% for J&J, whereas Pfizer and Merck have declined 53% and 45%, respectively.

Leadership Gaffes of the Week go to Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors for losing sight of the HP Way – the culture created by founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett – and failing to develop leaders internally. Since 1999, the HP board has gone outside company management three consecutive times in choosing Carly Fiorina, Mark Hurd, and Leo Apotheker, all of whom have tried to put their own stamp on the culture while ignoring the culture that made HP so successful for forty years. Since taking the helm two months ago, Apotheker has replaced ten EVPs and SVPs and half the board with outsiders. Will HP ever recover its former greatness?