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Fort Worth to remain a major hub as Alcon’s global headquarters to shift to Switzerland

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Fort Worth to remain a major hub as Alcon’s global headquarters to shift to Switzerland

Robert Francis

Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis that began in Fort Worth, will locate its future global headquarters in Geneva, following completion of its proposed spinoff from Novartis, the Basel, Switzerland-based company announced Sept. 11.

Alcon’s new global headquarters in Geneva will be the primary location for Alcon’s senior corporate leadership and other corporate and commercial functions. It will be co-located with Alcon’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regional office, which is already based in the city.

Alcon’s current global divisional headquarters in Fort Worth will remain a major operational, commercial and innovation hub for the proposed standalone company, according to the announcement.

“We want to reiterate our commitment to Fort Worth, where we’ve had a strong presence for more than 70 years,” David Endicott, Alcon CEO, said in a statement. “While our global headquarters will be located in Switzerland, as they were prior to our acquisition by Novartis, we anticipate an independent Alcon will bring significant benefits to our more than 4,500 Fort Worth associates and our local partners across the city and state of Texas.”

Alcon, founded in 1945, is located at 6201 S. Freeway.

“We knew back in June their ultimate goal was to spin off the Alcon plant, so this was not a surprise,” said Robert Sturns, economic development director for the City of Fort Worth. “They’re still maintaining a strong presence in Fort Worth.”

Alcon corporate and EMEA employees will begin moving to the new Geneva location in 2019.

“We are delighted to announce Geneva as the location of Alcon’s new global headquarters following the proposed spinoff from Novartis,” Endicott said in a news release. “For more than 40 years, Alcon has had a significant presence in Switzerland, which is known for its progressive business climate and innovation-friendly policies. Being headquartered in Geneva will help further increase Alcon’s global scale and reach to better serve our customers.”

Earlier this year, Novartis announced its intention to spinoff Alcon into a separately-traded standalone company. The planned spinoff would enable Novartis and Alcon to focus fully on their respective growth strategies. As part of that announcement, Novartis disclosed that Alcon would be incorporated in Switzerland with listings planned on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.

Novartis bought Alcon in 2011. Current Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is looking to narrow the company’s focus to prescription drugs and has shed assets outside that focus area, such as Alcon.

Alcon, which reported about $7 billion in 2017 sales, produces contact lenses, solution and surgical devices. Novartis said the division could be worth between $20-30 billion as a listed company once it has been spun off.

The new premises will be in a modern office complex offering world-class services and amenities, including close proximity to the Geneva international airport.

While final details are being finalized, Alcon could employ up to 700 in Switzerland post spin-off, according to a Novartis news release.

In an interview published on Novartis’ website on Sept. 10, Steve Speares, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) executive director, spoke with Alcon CEO Endicott about the next chapter for the company.

Among Endicott’s statements:

“The good news of where we are right now is that we’re re-emerging as a startup with $7 billion in revenue and 20,000 plus employees around the world. Our footprint has only gotten bigger since we’ve been part of Novartis, so people who knew us before will not see any noticeable change in the way we operate. I do think we will be more focused, and that is where real value gets created. Wherever people are doing eye surgery, that’s where we’re shipping product,” he said.

Alcon was founded in Fort Worth by Robert Alexander and William Conner, who had opened a pharmacy business in Fort Worth 1945 and combined their last names for the business name.

In 1947, they incorporated Alcon Laboratories. The Swiss food company Nestlé bought Alcon in 1978. Alcon merged with the Switzerland-based global health care company Novartis in 2011, giving Novartis 100 percent ownership of Alcon, which is now the second-largest division of Novartis.

Nestlé paid $280 million for Alcon and got $50 billion when it sold Alcon in 2011. There was another $10 billion in the dermatology division.

Alcon traces its history back to 1953, when Alexander was on a sales call in West Texas and met a local physician who had created and patented an eye drop dispensing bottle that is now the standard for eye care products.

The idea came from the doctor holding a nasal spray bottle upside down, Ed Schollmaier, CEO of Alcon for 25 years, told the Fort Worth Business Press in an interview.

Alexander took the idea to several plastics manufacturers to create prototypes.

“Instead of having a glass bottle with a dropper in it, they were packaging everything that way. I remember distinctly one of the guys saying, ‘What does your market research show is the opportunity in this market?’ Alexander laughed and he says, ‘Oh, hell no.’ He says, “We don’t have any money for market research. … We can hardly pay the employees,’ ” Schollmaier said.

Includes material from Business Press archives

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