Novartis appoints Jeff George as Division Head, Alcon as Kevin Buehler Retires


Jeff George and Kevin Buehler.

BASEL, Switzerland Novartis (NYSE: NVS) announced earlier this week the appointment of Jeff George as division head of Alcon, effective May 1, 2014. George succeeds Kevin Buehler who is retiring from the company after a distinguished 30-year career at Alcon, the global leader in eyecare. As part of the planned transition, Buehler will provide management and strategic support to the Alcon business. 

Richard Francis, a proven pharmaceuticals and biotechnology leader, has been appointed as new division head of Sandoz, succeeding George. Francis joins Novartis from Biogen Idec, where he has held roles of increasing responsibility across several therapeutic areas in both Europe and the U.S. over his 13-year career with the company.

“The appointments of Jeff George as the new division head of Alcon, and of Richard Francis as new division head of Sandoz place two strong leaders at the helm of two leading Novartis businesses. These new leaders will set the direction for the next phase of growth for our eyecare and generics businesses, two of our core growth engines. Both Jeff and Richard have the vision and expertise to strengthen our market leading positions,” said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. “I want to thank Kevin Buehler for his strong leadership and contributions to Alcon’s success over the years, and for leading Alcon through the merger and integration with Novartis. He will be missed.”

As division head of Alcon, George will continue to serve as a member of the Executive Committee of Novartis (ECN), reporting to Jimenez. Since joining Novartis in January 2007, George has held leadership positions of increasing importance in the company’s Vaccines and Diagnostics Division and the Pharmaceuticals Division, becoming division head of Sandoz in December 2008. At Sandoz, the statement noted, George built a best-in-class leadership team and created a winning, high-performance culture. He grew Sandoz sales from $7.5 billion in 2009 to $9.2 billion in 2013, while becoming the global leader in biosimilars with an industry-leading pipeline. He holds an MBA from Harvard University, an MA from Johns Hopkins, and a BA from Carleton College.

As division head of Sandoz, Francis will become a member of the Executive Committee of Novartis (ECN), reporting to Jimenez. He most recently served as Biogen Idec’s senior vice president, U.S. Commercial Operations, maximizing both growth and profitability. Francis previously held leadership roles across commercial and sales in Sanofi and Wyeth. Francis, a British citizen, graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Novartis offers a diversified portfolio of innovative medicines, eyecare, generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, over-the-counter and animal health products. In 2013, the Group achieved net sales of USD 57.9 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 136,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world.