Published in Manufacturing

Perrigo names new CEO amid shift to consumer-focused strategy

BY Tuesday, October 09, 2018 08:23am

Roehrhoff to depart after less than 10 months 

ALLEGAN — Perrigo Co. plc named a former tobacco company executive as president and CEO.

Murray Kessler’s appointment comes less than 10 months after Uwe Roehrhoff joined Perrigo as chief executive. Roehrhoff, who succeeded John Hendrickson as CEO, stepped down immediately, according to an announcement Monday evening by Perrigo that tied the management change to the August decision spin off Perrigo’s generic drug business to focus on its consumer consumer health care businesses.

“The board and Uwe mutually agreed the transition was in the best interest of the Company and, given the previously announced separation of the Rx business, now is the appropriate time to make this change. The board determined that Murray is the right CEO for Perrigo’s consumer focused strategy going forward,” Perrigo board chair Rolf Classon said in the announcement.

“Given the decision to separate the Rx pharmaceuticals business and pursue a consumer-focused strategy, the board is looking forward to partnering with him to develop Perrigo’s strategic plan,” he said. “We are confident that his track record in driving shareholder value and running highly successful businesses will advance Perrigo’s consumer strategy and help the Company deliver on our commitments to consumers and customers.”

The 59-year-old Kessler will run Perrigo from a “principal” office in West Palm Beach, Fla., and spend “significant time” at executive offices in Allegan, plus work “as needed” in Ireland, according to a filing Perrigo made with federal securities regulators.

Kessler received an annual base salary of $1.2 million, plus a $950,000 cash sign-on bonus payable within 30 days and $2.5 million in common stock options, according to today’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Kessler, who also received a seat on the Perrigo board, has more than 30 years of leadership experience in growing consumer products companies and managing businesses in a regulated environment, Classon said. He served as chairman and CEO at Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. from 2010 to 2015, where he expanded the company’s product categories and market capitalization from $9 billion to $23 billion.

Before Lorillard Tobacco, Kessler was vice chairman of Virginia-based tobacco company Altria Inc., and president and CEO of its wholly owned subsidiary UST Inc., formerly known as U.S. Tobacco Co. Altria acquired UST in 2009.

Before UST, Kessler for 18 years worked for several consumer-goods companies, including Vlasic Foods International, Campbell Soup Co. and The Clorox Co.

“This is a rare opportunity to drive winning results with a passionate and committed team in a high potential, consumer focused company that holds a leadership position in a broad portfolio of sizeable and recognizable categories. My experience in working with highly regulated consumer products reinforces my belief in this opportunity and it is for these reasons that I have chosen to once again take on the deep commitment of being a public company CEO,” Kessler said. “I look forward to working with the talented Perrigo leadership team and the Board to put a plan in place that delivers long-term sustainable and reliable growth.”

Perrigo, which is based in Dublin, Ireland, but run from Allegan, in July reported second quarter sales of $1.18 billion with $36.2 million in net income. Six-month sales midway through 2018 totaled $2.4 billion in $117 million in net income.

The Rx division that Perrigo plans to spin off, sell or have “other form of separation” from by the second half of 2019 recorded sales of $208.6 million with operating income of $56.9 million, which compares to sales of $240.4 million with $69.3 million in operating income for the same period a year earlier.

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include details about Kessler’s employment agreement with Perrigo. 

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