Novartis chief steps aside for Jimenez

Look out, drugmakers: Another executive who spent his formative years outside the industry will take over at a Big Pharma near you. And much to the chagrin of the press, he's replacing one of the most talkative chiefs in the industry: Daniel Vasella (photo), CEO of Novartis. 

In a move that is at once surprising and completely expected, Vasella is stepping down. Having run Novartis for 14 years, Vasella has drawn his share of critics who say he's stuck around for too long. But last year, Vasella said he didn't intend to give up the reins very soon. Perhaps because he wasn't yet sure his successor was ready for the top job. (Or perhaps because he was waiting to leave the company after posting record quarterly results, as Novartis did today for Q4 2009.)

If he wasn't sure about his replacement, then he's changed his mind since. Novartis pharma chief Joe Jimenez (photo) is scheduled to ascend to the CEO suite next week. Yes, that's next week: February 1, to be exact. In taking over, Jimenez beats out COO Joerg Reinhardt, who had been in the running for the top job but now will leave the company instead.

So it's something of a changing of the guard at Novartis. Vasella steps aside for Jimenez to become CEO. Longtime CFO Raymond Breu, in a previously announced move, is leaving the company, to be replaced by ex-AstraZeneca-ite and Goldman Sachs banker Jon Symonds. David Epstein, who now heads up Novartis' cancer drugs unit, will take over Jimenez's seat as pharma chief. And, as the Financial Times reports, another Novartis veteran, Andreas Rummelt, joins Reinhardt in leaving the company. New year, new leadership. We'll have to see how they do.

- find the Novartis' release
- read the FT piece
- get more from the Wall Street Journal
- see Bloomberg's take
- check out the story from SwissInfo
- read comments from the incoming CFO in the WSJ
- find Novartis' new org chart at Pharmalot
- check out the company's numbers at the New York Times