- Former Allergan chief executive Brent Saunders will be the next CEO of Bausch + Lomb, returning to run a newly refocused version of the eye care company a decade after he oversaw its sale to Valeant Pharmaceuticals.
- Saunders, who was Bausch + Lomb’s CEO from 2010 to 2013, will replace its current head Joseph Papa on March 6 and also become chair of the board of directors, Bausch + Lomb said Wednesday. The current board chair, Thomas Ross, will take the role of lead independent director.
- Bausch + Lomb, which has been searching for a replacement for Papa since July, is wasting no time bringing Saunders into the fold. He will officially join the company on Thursday as an adviser so he can work closely with Papa on the transition. Bausch + Lomb shares jumped 10% in morning trading Wednesday on the news.
Saunders is taking the helm of a company emerging from years of financial drama that began when the private equity firm Warburg Pincus bought it for $4.5 billion in 2007, de-listing its shares from the New York Stock Exchange.
Six years later, Canadian drugmaker Valeant bought Bausch + Lomb from Warburg, and the famous maker of contact lenses became a unit of a company that was subsequently embroiled in controversy.
By early 2016, Valeant was facing federal scrutiny over its accounting and drug pricing practices and brought in Papa as CEO to turn things around.
Under Papa, Valeant took on the new name of Bausch Health, agreed to settle U.S. charges of misleading investors and decided to separate Bausch + Lomb into an independent company once again trading on the NYSE. The initial public offering was one of the largest in life sciences last year, despite pricing below the company’s target range.
In Saunders, the Bausch + Lomb board saw a steady hand with “strong inner-working knowledge of the company and unparalleled executive leadership in health care,” Ross said in the company’s release. Most recently, Saunders served as CEO of Allergan and its predecessor companies from 2013 to 2020, when its sale to AbbVie was completed. He has also served on a number of corporate boards since.
Bausch + Lomb can trace its roots to 1853, when J.J. Bausch opened an optical goods store in Rochester, New York, with backing from his friend Henry Lomb. The company eventually branched into microscopes, slide projectors and film lenses but was always most renowned for its eye-care products. In 1971, Bausch + Lomb launched the first mass-produced soft contact lens in the U.S.