‘I took my napkin, and off we went’: Robert Wessman’s billion dollar vision
The founder and CEO of Alvogen shows us the napkin on which he first pitched his vision for the generic pharmaceuticals business
In June 2009, Robert Wessman – former CEO of multi-billion dollar pharmaceuticals business Actavis – met with investors in a New York restaurant to discuss his vision for a new pharma business model: Alvogen. He explains how he grabbed a napkin to sketch out his ideas – a napkin he still has to this day, and brings out every couple of years. This year the company has surpassed the $1bn sales target he set himself eight years ago. Watch our other interviews with the Alvogen chairman and CEO, where he discusses his vision of leadership, and the pressures in the generic pharmaceuticals market today.
World Finance: In June 2009, Robert Wessman – former CEO of multi-billion dollar pharmaceuticals business Actavis – met with investors in a New York restaurant to discuss his vision for a new pharma business model: Alvogen. And by discuss, I mean: draw on a napkin.
So basically I grabbed this napkin – and I’m quite fond of this napkin. So you cannot borrow it, by the way.
So just reading from the napkin, my vision was, I wanted to create a leading company in the world. So, no lack of ambition there! I wanted to see a company with over a billion dollar sales, here. And we will exceed that this year.
I wanted to go into emerging markets – meaning central and eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific. And I wanted to also include the US, being the biggest market in the world.
I wanted to make sure that we could produce our products. So, wanted to have a CMO, our own facility. Which we did, in the US. I wanted to open a CRO, so we could do our own clinical trials. I wanted to then open up my own biosimilars, which we did four years back with Alvotech. And I wanted to cover not only prescription drugs, but also OTC.
I wanted to hire the best in class people to join us. I wanted to build the best portfolio, knowing that the industry would consolidate. So we would have a product which our customers want.
I wanted to make sure that we would build up the best quality systems. And we wanted to build up the best service. So Alvogen today operates over 99 percent service level on a global scale. Which I think don’t think any other generic company is doing.
So I took my nice napkin, and off we went. I signed up with a US company, I bought a half developed portfolio: 21 products, which I wanted to use as a base for my new venture. A year later, those products were advanced in the development, and I didn’t have any production side.
So I went to a meeting in upstate New York with a company called Norwich. And met with the owners of Norwich: they had manufacturing plants only. I came with 21 products I needed someone to produce. And I explained my napkin.
So, they were inspired. They thought it would be a good idea to combine products and plant. And a few months later we had a contract where we combined forces.
So from that day we started a journey to build up our portfolio, to build up our research and development, our business development. We expanded into 35 countries in only 24 months. And we basically took this small company with $37m revenues, loss making; into what is now Alvogen. A global business with over a billion dollar sales.
So since then, this has been our strategic roadmap. I’m always a little bit proud when I take a look at my napkin, which I only do every second year. So, I kind of preserve it well, and make sure that nobody uses it by mistake.
World Finance: Quite a story; thank you very much.
Robert Wessman: Thanks.
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