Pharmaceutical veteran named new CEO at Alcon

Mike Ball

Novartis AG’s Fort Worth-based eye-care unit, Alcon, is getting a new CEO as the Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant attempts to revive growth.

Mike Ball replaces Jeff George, who has decided to leave Novartis, according to a company news release. Ball formerly head of pharmaceutical and medical device company Hospira before it was acquired by Pfizer Inc. Ball also led Alcon-competitor Allergan, the maker of Botox, from 2006 to 2011.

Alcon net sales were $2.3 billion, down 13 percent from the third quarter and down 6 percent from the previous year. Operating income was $132 million, down 64 percent from the previous quarter and down 36 percent from a year earlier.

Novartis is also combining Alcon’s ophthalmic medicines business with Novartis’s broader pharmaceuticals unit.

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Frederic Guerard will be appointed leader of Alcon’s worldwide franchise business for the new ophthalmology franchise, effective Feb. 1, reporting to Rainer Boehm, chief commercial and medical affairs officer, Novartis Pharma. Most recently Guerard was the head of the global pharma franchise for Alcon in Fort Worth, and prior to that he was the CPO pead for Novartis in the United Kingdom. Guerard joined Novartis in 1999 and has held commercial and general management roles across geographies including Australia, Spain, Egypt and France.

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez, in an interview, said Alcon’s business will begin to turn around near the end of this year. He also said Novartis plans to invest $200 million in Alcon. – Robert Francis