Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Alex Gorsky hung up his hat in the CEO office today. He'll also have to roll up his sleeves. In his new job, he'll contend with a hefty list of action items: a consumer-drug division operating under an FDA consent decree, thousands of lawsuits over a recalled hip device, new safety concerns and lawsuits about its vaginal mesh products, a federal investigation into its Risperdal marketing, and big state-level fines for Risperdal marketing violations.
And that doesn't include the nitty-gritty business issues that every pharma executive faces these days. R&D productivity. Emerging-markets expansion. Stock performance. Just to name a few.
In his first couple of interviews since he won the CEO title, Gorsky acknowledged the challenge ahead. He told The New York Times that J&J needs to revamp its R&D process, fix its consumer-drug manufacturing problems and rebuild consumer confidence. "I think we're going to need to be bold, disciplined and decisive about how we go forward," Gorsky said.
And that "how" won't include shedding business units a la Pfizer ($PFE) and Abbott Laboratories ($ABT), Gorsky told Bloomberg. He would rather deploy J&J's $14 billion in cash on deals, particularly in devices and emerging markets. "We are committed to being diversified across the whole healthcare continuum," he said.
Gorsky has run a marathon or two, so there's no question about his endurance or persistence. He's also a "realistic optimist," he says. Speaking to Bloomberg about the consumer unit's problems, he said, "We realize we have a lot of work to do." He'll need all three attributes to get the job done.