Dekkers uses tennis lessons at Bayer's helm

We're beginning to think pharma boards have one screening question for CEO candidates: Did you ever engage in competitive sports? Recent executive profiles have told us Novartis ($NVS) CEO Joe Jimenez (photo) was a competitive swimmer, Novo Nordisk chief Lars Sorensen rides in cycling races, and now, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers is a former No. 2-ranked tennis player in the Netherlands.

The latest story, from Barron's, draws a link between Dekkers' penchant for rushing the net and his emphatic criticism of a few trends hampering Big Pharma. For instance, the ongoing government-pricing squeeze. U.S. and European officials have been targeting drugmakers with price cuts as a way to save money on healthcare--unfairly so, Dekkers says. Asking 15 drugmakers for a rebate "is a lot easier than closing 200 hospitals in rural areas in the country, even though that is actually more needed," he told Barron's.

Dekkers also isn't happy about IP protection. He thinks U.S. courts have weakened it, hurting pharma's ability to be financially rewarded for innovation. But he is happy with prospects for Bayer's new bloodthinner Xarelto. As Bayer-watchers know, Dekkers thinks Xarelto could hit $3 billion in yearly sales.

One of the most intriguing tennis-related lessons Dekkers cites is all about personal performance. As a tennis player, he learned how to amp up for peak performance when it was necessary. "[I]n business that is actually a very important art of how you manage your day," Dekkers said. "When you have the critical meeting or presentation, how do you peak for that?" Sounds like another interview question for would-be CEOs.

- read the Barron's profile