Bausch + Lomb names new CEO, chairman

April 1, 2010

Bausch + Lomb is poised for growth, according to its new CEO.

Rochester, NY-Bausch + Lomb (B + L), with a foundation built on a "legendary" 157-year-old brand, is poised for growth, according to the company's new chief executive officer (CEO).

Saunders, previously senior vice president and president of Schering-Plough's consumer health-care unit, told Optometry Times that his primary goal as head of the eye-care company is sustainable, long-term, high-performance growth.

Although Saunders is new to the eye-care business, Hassan has a great deal of experience with eye products as the former head of Pharmacia before its $60 billion all-stock sale to Pfizer in 2003. After Pharmacia, Hassan became the CEO and chairman of Schering-Plough, and negotiated its $41.1 billion sale to Merck & Co. in November 2009. Hassan joined the B + L board of directors in November.

Saunders and Hassan take over the helm of B + L as it works to regain its footing following the 2006 recall of its contact lens solution (ReNu with MoistureLoc), which was linked to a rare outbreak of Fusarium keratitis throughout the country.

The recalled solution resulted in more than 60 cornea transplants and more than 600 lawsuits. The company has paid about $250 million in settlements since 2008, according to the Associated Press. In the aftermath of the recall, chairman Ronald L. Zarrella resigned in 2008, and Ostrov was appointed to help stabilize the company.

Saunders acknowledged that Hassan has successfully rebuilt "broken" companies-but that expertise is not required at B + L.

"I can't stress that enough," Saunders said March 17 by telephone from the Netherlands, where he and Hassan were meeting some of their new employees. "The previous CEO and the current executive team did a lot of fixing already. So this is building from a very solid foundation. I've been using the [phrase] 'powering up,' which means taking the hard work all of the company employees have done and trying to make the most of it. It's the idea of going from good to great."

The building process will require new products, through a combination of research and development, and mergers and acquisitions, he said.

"We have to invest in research and development," Saunders said. "I'm encouraged by what I see in our pipeline. We have to be smart about how we make those investments. The current landscape is littered with casualties in research and development, so we need to place our bets on research that is innovative and fills the white space of unmet need."