Novartis Poaches GSK Veteran as New Sandoz CEO

CEO in Office looking out window

GlaxoSmithKline veteran Richard Saynor is coming home to Sandoz. Saynor was named the new chief executive officer of the Novartis’ subsidiary on Tuesday.

For the past nine years, Saynor has been with GSK, most recently serving as senior vice president and global head of classic and established medicines at the U.K. pharma giant. However, before beginning with GSK back in 2010, Saynor spent five years with Sandoz, overseeing operations in Asia, Turkey and Canada, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Saynor will take over the helm of Sandoz following the abrupt departure of former CEO Richard Francis. Francis resigned from his role in March as parent company Novartis undertakes a year-and-a-half-long transformation of its Sandoz business unit. Francesco Balestrieri, currently Region Head Europe for Sandoz, had been appointed interim CEO.

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Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan announced the appointment Tuesday during the company’s financial quarterly report. In the brief announcement, Novartis said over the course of his two-decade-plus career, Saynor has “established a successful track record building strong interfaces between commercial and technical operations as well as driving commercial excellence across his organization.” Narasimhan also noted that Saynor has built and led successful teams during his career with a “strong focus on inclusive culture and developing talent.” While at Sandoz earlier in his career, Narasimhan said Saynor was responsible for the strong expansion of Sandoz’ generics business across Asia, Latin America and Turkey.

While at GSK, Saynor has been responsible for over £10 billion of post-patent products covering a number of therapy areas, including respiratory, allergy, urology, anti-infectives and CNS.

Since taking over at Novartis, Narasimhan has been transforming the company at all levels, most recently spinning off its eye care unit Alcon into a standalone business. Sandoz, Novartis’ generics business, will also be the focus of some changes as the company has faced some challenges in the generics market. Narasimhan has already initiated a number of changes for Sandoz. In September, the company sold U.S. dermatology and generic drug assets that were under the Sandoz umbrella to India’s Aurobindo Pharma. That sale is expected to be finalized later this year.

When Francis resigned last month, Narasimhan said part of the changes coming to Sandoz was an expectation of making the subsidiary more autonomous. There is some speculation that, much like Alcon, Narasimhan has plans to spin Sandoz off into a standalone company.

According to the quarterly reports, Sandoz reported net sales of $2.3 billion, which was down from the previous year. Novartis attributed the decline to price erosion in the U.S. due, in part, to increased competition as well as ongoing political pressure over list prices.

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