Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez Stepping Down; Company Names Vasant Narasimhan Next CEO

September 8, 2017: By Jon Swedien
Vasant Narasimhan (left) and Joseph Jimenez (second to the right)

Vasant Narasimhan (left) and Joseph Jimenez (second from left)

Joseph Jimenez will step down as the CEO of Novartis effective Jan. 31, 2018, the Swiss company announced Sept. 4.

The company’s board of directors has appointed Vasant Narasimhan, MD, to be Jimenez’ replacement effective Feb. 1, 2018.

Jimenez said his stepping down won’t affect an ongoing review of Alcon.

“We’re going to consider all options ranging from keeping the business up to a capital markets exit,” Jimenez said after his upcoming departure was announced, Reuters reported.

Jimenez has said Novartis will give an update toward the end of the year on Alcon’s future.

In July, Alcon’s net sales grew 1 percent in Q2-2017, and Jimenez said the positive results increased his options if he were to move toward spinning out Alcon.

After Jimenez steps down in January, he will stay on with Novartis until his scheduled retirement on Aug. 31, 2018, the company said. Jimenez will be available for advice and support at the request of Novartis’ chairman or CEO until he retires.

Jimenez joined the company in 2007. He has been CEO since 2010. Before becoming CEO, Jimenez led Novartis’ consumer health division and then held the position of division head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Narasimhan, a US citizen who lives in Switzerland, is currently Novartis’ global head of drug development and chief medical officer.

He joined Novartis in 2005 and is a member of its executive committee. He has held numerous leadership positions in commercial, drug development, and strategy roles, the company said. Prior to his current role, he served as head of development for Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

While Narasimhan and Jimenez were both appointed to CEO from within Novartis’ ranks, they have considerably different backgrounds.

Jimenez came to Novartis from the consumer goods industry, having worked at Clorox and H.J. Heinz. He graduated with an economics degree from Stanford University in 1982 and earned his MBA in 1984 from the University of California, Berkeley.

Narasimhan received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and obtained a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago.

Narasimhan started his career as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

He is the third CEO in Novartis’ history. The first was Daniel Vasella, MD, who was appointed CEO in 1996, when Ciba-Geigy merged with Sandoz to form Novartis. Before joining Novartis, Vasella held a number of medical positions in Switzerland.

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