P&G investors wish for CEO Joe Jimenez as outgoing Novartis chief joins board

Joe Jimenez gesturing
Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez will join the board at Procter & Gamble, where activist investor Nelson Peltz has been pushing for changes.

Novartis' soon-to-be-ex CEO Joe Jimenez will have time on his hands next year, and now we know how he'll spend some of it: as a board member at Procter & Gamble, courtesy of a proxy fight at the consumer giant. The job will take him back to familiar territory.

That's because Jimenez came to Novartis from Heinz, where he headed up the company's North American operations. Novartis brought him on to integrate Alcon, which it had recently acquired, and has a large portfolio of consumer goods, including OTC eye meds and contact lenses. As the Swiss drugmaker's chief, he led two big cost-cutting drives—something P&G sorely needs now, at least according to activist investor Nelson Peltz. 

In fact, some P&G-watchers are so enamored of the appointment that they'd like to see Jimenez sign on as CEO. But Jimenez has said he has other plans. He's set his sights on Silicon Valley, and may well already have a nice venture capital post all lined up and ready for an announcement in the new year.

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"On the personal side, after 10 wonderful years in Switzerland my family is ready to return to Silicon Valley and the U.S.," Jimenez said in Novartis' statement about his Feb. 1 departure.

Back to Silicon Valley after years elsewhere. Jimenez lived in the Bay Area between 1978 and 1984 earning his undergraduate degree at Stanford University and MBA at the Haas School of Business at University of California - Berkeley. He then began his career at Clorox's operations in California.

And there's another personal reason, according to Forbes: Jimenez' three children live near Silicon Valley.

A post-pharma VC post is common for top execs; Jimenez' fellow Novartis alum David Epstein, in fact, landed at Flagship Ventures in Boston after making his own exit. And between his tenure at Heinz, which ended in 2006, and his joining Novartis, Jimenez worked as an advisor to the private equity firm Blackstone Group.

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Jimenez has experience on public company boards. He's been a director at General Motors since 2015 and served on Colgate-Palmolive's board from 2009 till 2015. He also did a stint on AstraZeneca's board from 2002 to 2007, when he first joined Novartis.

Jimenez said he's honored to be chosen for the P&G board, of course. "P&G is one of the most respected companies, recognized for its exemplary consumer focus," he said in the company's Monday statement. "I look forward to being a part of a strong team contributing to this company's transformation and future success."

But fans of Jimenez in the P&G crowd don't have to completely give up hope. After Novartis announced Jimenez' exit in early September, he told Forbes that he wouldn't rule out leading another big company. Then again, P&G is based in Cincinnati. It would have a better shot at wooing Jimenez, should it want to, if it were based in Silicon Valley.