Novartis's Joe Jimenez on Layoffs in Good Times

The CEO of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on laying off people in good times and why the U.S. health-care system is fundamentally flawed
Illustration by Kate Gibb; Jimenez photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

When I was named CEO of Novartis in 2010, it raised some eyebrows. I wasn’t a scientist or a physician. I was an American. Most of my career had been in consumer packaged goods. Before I joined in 2007, I ran Heinz in Europe; you have to be fast in positioning your business ahead of the competition. The pharmaceutical business is much longer term. It can take 10 years to develop a drug. As soon as I became CEO, there was more distance just the very next day, even with friends. My first move was to invest in the pipeline by keeping our research and development at about 20 percent of sales.

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