Viehbacher's $9 billion shopping spree

In an article full of juicy tidbits, Bloomberg profiles Chris Viehbacher (photo), the former GlaxoSmithKline CEO-runner up who defected to Sanofi-Aventis. Since joining the company last December, Viehbacher has set out to revamp Sanofi's image, making himself available to investors and media and giving the France-based company a public face. "His accessibility is high on an absolute level, but on a relative basis, compared to his predecessors, it's truly meteoric," Gregg Tenser, a managing director at NWQ Investment Management, tells Bloomberg.

In 2013, brands that make up 20 percent of Sanofi's revenue will face generic competition. Almost immediately upon taking up the CEO role Viehbacher set out to bolster the company's holdings, spending $9 billion dollars on a dozen acquisitions in just one year. Those deals include growing its animal health business, and an increased focus on vaccines, biologics, and OTC medicines.

Only time will tell if Viehbacher's moves are enough to insulate Sanofi from patent expirations, but analysts agree that he's a huge improvement over his predecessor, Gerard La Fur (photo). And Wall Street has rewarded Viehbacher's strategy, sending stock up 33 percent since a low in March. Sanofi shares have returned 22 percent this year, making one of the best-performing Big Pharma stocks.

Viehbacher's reviews aren't all good, however. Critics say he's more concerned with pleasing the shareholders and delivering dividends than he is with keeping employees happy. "Mr. Viehbacher is Mr. Restructuring," said CGT labor union representative Thierry Bodin in an interview with Bloomberg. The company has already cut 750 sales jobs this year, and pledges sales force cuts are in the cards. Additionally, Sanofi will eliminate 1,300 of its 6,400 jobs in France in 2010.

- here's the Bloomberg article