Interview with Fred Hassan – Former Chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough

Fred Hassan – Former Chairman and CEO of Schering-PloughFred Hassan is a Partner with the private equity firm, Warburg Pincus LLC. He is also Chairman of Bausch & Lomb, as well as Board member of Time Warner and Avon where he serves as Lead Director.

But I met Fred during my career in the pharmaceuticals industry when I was representing Procter & Gamble at a PhRMA working conference. His experience in the pharmaceutical industry is long and distinguished. His last role was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Schering-Plough Corporation from 2003 until its merger with Merck & Co. Inc in 2009.

Fred has an exceptionally broad perspective on what is required for a company to be successful. His management of companies with global operations has provided him the unique opportunity to see America through the eyes of executives from other nations. I think you will find this interview with Fred well worth reading. He is as insightful and impressive today as when I first heard him speak at that PhRMA meeting so many years ago.

The perception of Brand America by world citizens has dramatically improved in 2009 studies by both FutureBrand and the Anholt-GfK Roper nation Brand Index. Kevin Roberts (CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi) authored a blog post about the unprecedented change in ranking suggesting the world is responding to the aspirational dreams of America. The 2011 reports  paint a more confusing picture. What are your thoughts about the world’s real reaction to Brand America?

America has a competitive edge in innovation – just like China has it in low cost manufacturing and Brazil has it in low cost agriculture.

America has a well-defended competitive advantage in innovation – because of its special cultural DNA that drives innovation.

You have had opportunities in your career to make global location decisions for capital investments. What were the barriers to selecting a U.S. based location that could potentially be addressed through an effective product development effort (i.e., public policy reform, infrastructure investment, asset creation) to make Brand America even more attractive for foreign direct investment?

The barriers that can be addressed are:

  • Lawsuit abuse – where the US remains an outlier, not only among the major advanced economies but also when compared to its emerging market competitors.
  • Regulatory burdens – where the US has a competitive disadvantage versus many countries, such as China.

I have asserted that the pillars of a great brand are relevance, competitiveness and authenticity. How do you feel Brand America delivers on each of these pillars?

The US delivers well on all three. It is relevant because the US still leads the world in cultural, political, commercial and scientific thought. It is competitive – because the US has a dynamic and innovative culture. It is authentic because the American people are passionate about doing the right thing.

On authenticity, fiscal authenticity remains a focus area. . One cannot be fiscally authentic when one consumes more than what one produces – – and borrows the rest from China and other nations.

We need to develop a stronger ability to have an honest dialogue, build more fiscal EQ and have a long term plan to deal with the problem.

In his expert interview, Sander Flaum (CEO Flaum Partners) identified you as one of five experts to be on a Brand America “Dream Team” of advisors. If you were the Brand Manager for Brand America, what are a couple of the areas you would focus branding efforts on?

Freedom –

  1. To think
  2. To operate
  3. To compete
  4. The rule of law – especially respect for due process and for property rights.

How important do you think place branding is to the long-term success of community, region and/or state economic development?

It is very important – but it must be authentic, – on a sustained basis.

Any thoughts on the reapplication of product or investment life cycle management to help economic development organizations better manage industry impacts in their local economic portfolio?

Product Life cycle works best when it starts very early and with plenty of lead-time and with clear goals, assignment of resources, and a will to get it done.

The same applies to economic development.



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