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The Rising Star

The Rising StarAfter quickly rising the corporate ranks, Tufts graduate Peter Dolan is helping the world's third-largest pharmaceutical group reinvent itself. New York City.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.15.02] While Peter Dolan's first job as a paperboy was relatively common for a nine-year-old, little else about his career has been typical. Turning challenges into opportunities, the 46-year-old Tufts graduate rapidly climbed the corporate ranks to head Bristol-Myers Squibb -- helping the world's third-largest pharmaceutical company overcome some tough challenges.

"He's very fast, very aggressive and very smart," J. Raymond Elliot -- CEO of a Bristol-Myers spin-off company -- told the New York Times last week.

In just 15 years with the $18 billion company, Dolan worked his way up from product marketing to the company's board room, becoming the youngest chief executive in the corporation's 115-year history.

"There is little debate that his star rose quickly," reported the Times. "By 1993, he was heading Bristol-Myers Products, the over-the-counter drug business, where he pushed the company to invest more heavily in Excedrin, including conducting the clinical trials to gain approval as a treatment for migraines. In 1998, Excedrin became the first over-the-counter drug approved to treat migraines, and sales that year were $240 million, up 17 percent from the previous year."

He found similar success as head of the Mead Johnson Nutritional Group -- a Bristol-Myers company that produces infant formula -- and Mead Johnson and Zimmer, a medical devices group within the corporation.

It wasn't always easy, but Dolan persisted -- regularly finding success.

"From the moment he walked into Bristol in 1988, a fresh-faced 32-year-old who got his start marketing Jell-O and other desserts for General Foods, Dolan says, he encountered as much skepticism and resistance as cooperation," reported the Times. "Yet, he says he still managed to resuscitate many of the company's flagging divisions."

For the Tufts graduate and Trustee, every challenge offered an opportunity for success.

"I may be at my best when I'm underestimated," Dolan told the Times.

As Bristol-Myers Squibb's CEO, Dolan may be facing some of the toughest challenges of his career. Facing slumping stock prices and delays in the development of several new drugs, Bristol-Myers Squibb's stock holders are looking to Dolan to help the drug giant rebound.

Over the last year, he helped the company sell or spin off several non-drug-related companies, including hair-care products maker Clairol. His next step, reported the Times, will likely involve heavy investment in several promising drugs under development.

It is too early to predict the long-term impact of these decisions on Bristol-Myers Squibb, but Dolan is confident that he's getting the corporation back on track.

"I don't think I've had an experience, where, at the end of the day, it didn't work out," he told the Times.

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