The International Center has named Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter the 30th recipient of its prestigious International Citizen of the Year award. Lechleiter received the award Tuesday night at a sold-out event attended by more than 700 business and community leaders in Indianapolis. During an extended interview last month, Lechleiter talked about his unlikely path to Lilly’s top spot and the lessons he’s learned.
The International Citizen of the Year award recognizes individuals for significant contributions to the globalization of Indiana. In addition to his executive roles at Lilly, Lechleiter is well-known for his substantial community and philanthropic efforts. He currently serves as chairman of the board of trustees for United Way Worldwide and is on the boards of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Nike Inc.
Lechleiter, who has served as president and CEO since 2008 and chairman since 2009, has led Lilly through one of the toughest periods in its history. Between 2011 and 2014, the so-called “YZ years,” Lilly lost patent protections for drugs accounting for about 40% of 2009 revenues. The period was also punctuated by high profile product development failures.
In an unprecedented response, Lechleiter led the charge to implement $1 billion in costs cutting measures and dramatically reduce Lilly’s global workforce.
The difficult decisions seem to have paid off and with the YZ years “in the rear-view mirror,” Lilly is focused on the future.
In a recent interview with Inside INdiana Business Television, Lechleiter talked optimistically about what he called the richest mid-to-late stage pipeline in the company’s history, with potential blockbuster drugs in areas including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Wall Street is also taking notice, as Lilly’s stock price, which languished in the mid-$30 range in 2011, today is trading around $83 per share.
The man who led the charge arrived at Lilly in 1979 as an organic chemist, with little thought of one day leading the company. “All I wanted to do was chemistry,” said Lechleiter, who talks about lessons learned leading through challenging times.
Previous International Citizen of the Year Award recipients are:
2014 Mayor Greg and Mrs. Winnie Ballard
2013 Mark Miles
2011 Tim Solso
2010 Gov. Mitchell Elias Daniels, Jr.
2008 IU-Kenya Partnership
2007 Dr. Martin C. Jischke
2006 Ambassador Randall L. Tobias
2005 James T. Morris
2004 Christel DeHaan
2003 30th Anniversary Award: The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
2002 Rev. Fr. Boniface Hardin, O.S.B.
2001 Sidney Taurel
2000 Tony George
1999 Jeff Smulyan
1998 Bret Waller
1997 Lawrence H. Einhorn, M.D.
1996 Kai and Tom Binford
1995 K.P. Singh
1993 Margaret Sheridan
1993 Dr. Geoffrey Bannister
1991 Maestro Raymond Leppard
1990 The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton
1990 Sr. Marie Pierre Buttell
1989 The Honorable William H. Hudnut
1989 George Mikelsons
1987 The Honorable Robert D. Orr
1986 The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
1985 Riad Shaheen