August 1, 2016

Experts: New Eli Lilly CEO Tasked With Continuing Success

David Ricks, left, will take over for retiring CEO John Lechleiter, right, in January. - Photos courtesy Eli Lilly and Co.

David Ricks, left, will take over for retiring CEO John Lechleiter, right, in January.

Photos courtesy Eli Lilly and Co.

Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly will have a new CEO in January.

Lilly's retiring chief, John Lechleiter, led the company to new prosperity during his eight-year tenure -- and his replacement, David Ricks, will have the challenge of keeping that going, according to experts like Indiana University corporate leadership professor Ken Wendeln.

"I would guess that David Ricks has a challenge in ... keeping the high and the positive going, and delivering on the results that Lilly has put forth to the investment community that it's going to be able to go forward with," Wendeln said.

Plus, he said, Ricks will have to usher in Lilly's next signature products -- either through internal innovation, or external acquisitions.

IU corporate strategy professor Todd Saxton said the company will need both of those to stay competitive, since regulatory approvals for the promising drugs Lilly does have in the pipeline will take years.

Lilly has been a major player in diabetes care since commercializing insulin in the 1920s. It also originated the antidepressant Prozac and the anti-addiction drug Methadone.

And it owns the patent on the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, which Lilly created with a biotech company it later bought.

"It's a challenge to balance that internal development with external partnering to show sources of future growth," Saxton said. "I think that's something that Dave [Ricks] will be very well suited to continue."

Ricks has deep ties to Indiana, and has been with Lilly for 20 years. He currently leads Lilly's biomedicine division, after experience with the company’s operations in China and Canada.

Saxton said he'll need it, as Lilly faces increasing competition and demand for generics and other forms of medicine abroad.

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