Outgoing Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter, who steered the company through the so-called "YZ Period" – a stretch that saw the loss of billions in revenue from patent expirations – says the key to a successful return to growth was simple. "We stuck to our knitting," said Lechleiter, who admits the company could have gone a lot of different directions, but stayed focused on its core. "What are we good at? We’re good at discovering and developing medicines," said Lechleiter, in an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television. He will be succeeded by Lilly veteran Dave Ricks as CEO January 1.
In his final interview as CEO, Lechleiter talked about perspective he received from an investor in dealing with tough times.
Lechleiter joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior organic chemist, rising through the ranks to become president and chief operating officer in 2005. He was elevated to CEO in April, 2008 and chairman in January, 2009.
The Louisville native says much has changed in the pharmaceutical business since his arrival at Lilly more than 37 years ago. In particular, public scrutiny of the drug industry. "And I think that’s a reflection not just of the amplified media coverage, but of the importance people ascribe to health care," said Lechleiter. "I think we all understand that health care is important, medicines are important."
Lechleiter, who will continue to serve on the Lilly board as non-executive chairman until June, says he and wife Sarah plan to remain in Indianapolis. "We’re going to stay here in Indy, we’re Hoosiers."
Watch complete interview and Lechleiter’s thoughts on the recent Alzheimer’s disappointment, his health scare and successor Dave Ricks: