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Mylan CEO Bresch sets sights on growth

| Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan Aug. 22, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan Aug. 22, 2014.

Heather Bresch moved Mylan Inc. into a palatial headquarters in Cecil in December that's three times larger than the pharmaceutical firm's previous office a few miles up the road.

It's a testament to the growth and prestige Mylan has achieved since 1992, when Bresch started as a secretary in the quality assurance department at what was then a regional company with about $100 million in sales.

Today, the 45-year-old Bresch runs the world's third-largest generic drug company, with sales approaching $8 billion a year and more than 20,000 employees in 140 countries.

Mylan's headquarters may be named for Robert Coury, the former CEO who oversaw the company's explosive growth from 2002 to 2012. But it's Bresch who occupies the corner office on the top floor and is tasked with leading Mylan through ambitious plans for expansion over the next several years.

She's pledged that Mylan will earn at least $6 a share in 2018, which would more than double earnings in 2013. Getting there involves navigating regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration to bring hundreds of products to market in a highly competitive business. At the same time, the company is on a buying spree. It's agreed to acquire the overseas generic business of Abbott Laboratories for $5.3 billion, a deal that would allow it to pursue the controversial strategy of reincorporating in the Netherlands to cut its tax bill.

And more deals are in the works, Bresch has said, as the pharmaceutical industry goes through one of its periodic rounds of consolidation. She spoke at length with the Tribune-Review. Here are excerpts.

Trib: I'm going start with the deal to acquire Abbott Labs and the controversy around the inversion deal. They've been criticized as being unpatriotic. How would you respond to those criticisms?

Bresch: If we stand still and remain a U.S. company, that makes us a sitting target for a foreign entity to acquire us and deliver to our shareholders what we can't, unfortunately. So I continue to hope that at the end of the day what's in the best interest of this country will prevail, which is an overhaul of our corporate tax.

Trib: When you think about the generics industry and the broader pharmaceutical industry and your competition, what keeps you up at night?

Bresch: The things that are not in my control. What governments do, Congress, the president, around the globe. Governments can wake up and you can be given a letter of a price cut tomorrow. There's a lot of moving pieces and parts when you operate a global organization. So what you focus on is what you do have in your control — the assets you are responsible for, maximizing opportunities, because everything doesn't always go according to plan.

Trib: That projection of $6 a share in earnings by 2018, what makes you so confident that you'll achieve that?

Bresch: The investments in people, products and an infrastructure. ... We've said that everything that we've done gets us to at least $6, and as we continue to grow and have significant financial flexibility, we'll be able to perhaps accelerate meeting those targets.

Trib: Are future acquisitions key to reaching the $6 target?

Bresch: They're not needed. It just gives us the potential to accelerate it. And yes, we've been pretty vocal that we're going to continue to acquire things that are complementary to our platform.

Trib: Is there any concern yet that this consolidation has reached a point, or is nearing a point, where you feel like regulators might start to clamp down on deals?

Bresch: No, I think there's still a lot of room and a lot of companies out there.

Trib: What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been in your time as CEO?

Bresch: What I'm probably most proud about is continuing to build sustainability and putting the infrastructure in place that allows our employees to connect. We talk about our three C's: connect, communicate and collaborate. When you have 20,000 employees around the globe, we now have technologies that allow us to do that. Now through the Internet and internal systems that allow us to do that, it just opens up the doors for innovation and ideas because you've got thousands of employees talking and sharing ideas.

Trib: It should be said that you've been CEO for a little more than two years now.

Bresch: To me, titles — it's not like I sit back and say, “Oh, I'm CEO.” I feel like I get up and do what I've been doing for over 20 years. I love it, and I love making a difference. And being able to be part of this company that's growing, that you can see real difference you make in the lives of others.

Trib: How do you unwind?

Bresch: It's my family, my kids. I don't golf. I don't play tennis. I do none of those things. For one, I don't know how. I've never learned. But I don't have time. Mylan gets my heart and soul when I'm here. And my children get it when I'm at home.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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