Tufts Graduate Named CEO of Pfizer
After working his way from the halls of the Supreme Court to the executive board room at McDonald’s, Jeffrey Kindler now takes the reins of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.14.06] Pfizer Inc., the largest pharmaceutical corporation in the world, recently named 1977 Tufts graduate Jeffrey Kindler as its new CEO. Kindler, whose background includes both counseling large corporations and clerking in the Supreme Court, has been hailed as a good, strategic leader by colleagues and is expected to help the company strengthen its position in an evolving marketplace.
"The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing unprecedented change," Kindler, who earned a degree in English from Tufts, said in a Pfizer statement. "In response, we will transform virtually every aspect of how we do business, focusing on actions that create and sustain value for our shareholders."
The Pfizer board of directors sees Kindler as key to its success. Stan Ikenberry, lead for Pfizer, told the Wall StreetJournal that the company views Kindler as a "bright, insightful strategic thinker" and a "strong leader, a person who motivates and inspires colleagues."
"For Pfizer to be as successful in the future as it has been in the past, we know the company must do business in new ways," Ikenberry said in a company Pfizer statement. "Jeff is ideally suited to leading Pfizer's transformation."
Kindler, a lawyer by trade, didn’t begin his career in corporate America. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and was a partner and litigator at Williams & Connolly – a leading premier Washington, D.C., law firm – before he became general counsel for McDonald's Corp. in 1995. Eventually, Kindler became president of McDonald's Partner Brands; he joined Pfizer as general counsel in 2002 and was named a vice chairman of the company last year.
"He was much more than a lawyer," Matthew Paull, chief financial officer for McDonald's Corp., told The Wall Street Journal. "He was very strong on strategy."
Kindler believes his legal background will serve him well in an executive role for the drug company.
"In the pharmaceutical business the legal function is really critical to just about everything that we do," he told the Journal. "We're a highly regulated industry—everything that the company does from discovering medicines to conducting clinical trials, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and patents."
Kindler's promotion comes as Pfizer faces many of Pfizer's drug products face challenges from generic drug manufacturers, which will be able to take advantage of including upcoming patent expirations for Pfizer products. that enable generic manufacturers to produce drugs.
"Generic companies provide an important contribution to society by making drugs available at low cost to people, and that's a good thing," he told the Journal. "But the drugs they're making available at low cost wouldn't exist if somebody hadn't previously invented them."