Andrew Ward October 18, 2015
As consolation prizes go, the career of Marijn Dekkers has been a good one. His teenage ambition was to make a living from tennis and he came close, reaching number two in the youth rankings of his native Netherlands and spending several years on the fringes of the professional circuit. But when glory failed to arrive he turned instead to chemical engineering.
Four decades later, as chief executive of Bayer, he presides over Germany’s biggest company by market capitalisation (€90bn), as well as sitting on the board of General Electric, the company where he started out as a research scientist.
The 58-year-old is credited with transforming Bayer from a stodgy chemicals conglomerate into a more focused life sciences group. The latest step came this month with the initial public offering of its Covestro plastics division in the biggest German flotation for years. The IPO turned out to be the financial equivalent of a weak second serve as turbulent market conditions forced Bayer to cut the issue price. But there have been plenty of aces since Mr Dekkers took over in 2010; the share price has more than doubled in response to steady growth and a series of successful drug launches.
So why, in an era when many chief executives work long into their sixties, is he preparing to quit? An initial five-year contract has been extended by Bayer’s board only until the end of 2016 at the request of Mr Dekkers. He says this was because his children — he has three daughters — will be moving from school in Germany to college in the US. “I need flexibility to spend more time in the US and not have to be at a meeting here on Monday morning that I cannot miss.”
Willowy in stature with a shock of sandy hair, he does not look ready for retirement. But he insists there are no plans for another CEO job; instead he will put family first after a succession of taxing C-suite roles. Likening the pressures of executive life to that of an elite athlete, he says the fainting of his BMW counterpart, Harald Krüger, during a press call at the Frankfurt motor show last month, demonstrated the need for business leaders to protect their health.
“I’m very aware of the strain and stresses on my body, both physically and mentally, and put a lot of measures in place to manage that,” he says. “I know from my tennis days what it is to manage your energy. On the day of a match you need to peak at, say, 2pm not 5pm.”
Born 1957, Tilburg, Netherlands
Education Masters and PhD in chemical engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology
Career 1985-1995: Joined General Electric as a scientist at its research laboratory in Schenectady, New York, and rose to senior positions in GE’s polymers business
1995-2000: Various roles running units of AlliedSignal, the US engineering group later renamed Honeywell
2000-2009: Chief operating officer and later chief executive of Thermo Electron, which becomes Thermo Fisher Scientific after a merger to create the world’s biggest maker of laboratory equipment
2010: Appointed chief executive of Bayer
2012: Joined board of GE
Family Married with three daughters
Interests Played tennis semi-professionally before turning to business
Mr Dekkers witnessed the genesis of the modern, super-CEO at close quarters in the 1980s when he made the transition from laboratory science to management with GE, during the early days of then CEO Jack Welch’s hard-charging leadership. Relatively junior at the time, he had little direct contact with the man who became famous for firing the worst-performing 10 per cent of managers each year. But he recalls: “The company had 350,000 employees and everybody felt they were close to Jack because we would all be very aware of his presence.”
Having survived the annual purges for a decade, Mr Dekkers eventually moved to Honeywell and later built Thermo Fisher Scientific into the world’s largest manufacturer of laboratory equipment during eight years as chief executive.
Despite this pedigree, his move across the Atlantic in 2010 was a surprise. Bayer had always been run by Germans promoted from within the company. “When I arrived, people thought I was American so when I started talking German with a Dutch accent people were a bit relieved,” he says, hinting at local mistrust of shareholder-driven US business culture.
The recent scandal over Volkswagen’s rigging of emissions data has called into doubt the virtues of German corporate governance. Bayer, too, has faced environmental questions over the impact of its insecticides on declining honey bee populations, as well as the myriad ethical controversies that swirl around big pharma.
Yet Mr Dekkers insists the German model of consensual labour relations and strong industrial policy remains a force for good. “I prefer this culture, particularly if you are running a company with a very long time frame,” he says. “In the [US] culture, pressure comes too quickly if something doesn’t go well. People start knocking on your door saying, ‘Why don’t you sell this’ or ‘I want to be on your board as an activist’.”
But he admits to missing the greater dynamism of US business life and complains of European sniffiness about entrepreneurship. “I lived in Boston and every professor was involved in three start-ups,” he says. “If a professor gets rich through a start-up in Boston everybody admires him or her; here, people are suspicious.”
At Bayer, he found a 150-year-old company with promising new drugs such as Xarelto blood thinner — known generically as rivaroxaban — but weighed down by slower-growing legacy assets. The Covestro IPO marked the completion of an overhaul that has left four remaining businesses: pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare, animal health and crop science.
There is still wide diversity in products ranging from pesticides and flea collars to cancer medicines and the company’s oldest brand: aspirin. But they do all involve an intervention of one kind or another in the biochemical processes of living species, whether they be plants, animals or humans. This, says Mr Dekkers, positions the group to focus on high-value scientific innovation to meet rising global demand for healthcare and food.
“This is an unprecedented time,” he says, referring to the wave of medical breakthroughs created by advances in genomic science. “It’s like opening your eyes in the morning and seeing things you never saw before.”
He recalls working for Thermo Electron, the predecessor to Thermo Fisher, 15 years ago when it developed a machine that took a full year to sequence the structure of a protein. Today, the same process can be carried out in 20 seconds.
This is greatly accelerating the pace of research, but the data deluge also poses challenges for business leaders in all sectors, he says. “The faster the world moves [the more important is] your ability to absorb things. You get all this information and somehow you have to synthesise it and set the direction.”
Shifting the strategy of a company steeped in German industrial heritage has not always been easy. Bayer remains deeply rooted in its home town of Leverkusen in the manufacturing belt of North Rhine-Westphalia. Its ownership of the local Bundesliga football team, Bayer Leverkusen, symbolises these ties.
Mr Dekkers says he has tried to preserve the best of German culture while encouraging a more entrepreneurial spirit. He likens the process of bringing change to big companies to stretching a rubber band. “You can stretch it, but when does it snap? [If] you force people along at a faster pace than they are capable of . . . you end up out there on your own and no one knows what you are talking about.”
As Mr Dekkers looks forward to spending more time with his family and his tennis racket from the end of next year, he is perhaps also showing that healthy limits can be placed on how long chief executives should expose themselves to the torrid pace of running a multinational company.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 20151029
Jump to: navigation, search
Marijn Emmanuel Dekkers (born September 22, 1957 in Tilburg, The Netherlands) is a Dutch-American manager and chemist. He's CEO of Bayer AG since October 1, 2010.
Dekkers grew up as the youngest of three children of a merchant in the Dutch city of Tilburg. After attending the local schools, St. Aloysius (primary school) and St. Odulphus (Lyceum), in 1976 he began studying chemistry at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. Three years later he switched to chemical technology at Eindhoven University of Technology, where he received his Master and PhD in chemical engineering. From 1985 he worked in various research departments of General Electric (GE) in the USA and the Netherlands. In 1988 he was Research Director of the GE range of polymers and subsequently held management positions in various polymer units at GE.
In 1995, Dekkers joined Allied Signal (subsequently Honeywell International Inc.) and took over the management of various business units. In 2000, he became Chief Operating Officer at Boston-based Thermo Electron Corporation, one of the world's leading specialists in the manufacture of laboratory instruments. Within a short time, Dekkers implemented a complete corporate reorganization and became President and CEO in 2002. In this role he initiated further extensive restructuring measures, divesting various organizational units and strengthening the company's core business by means of targeted acquisitions, including the purchase in 2006 of the significantly larger laboratory consumables supplier Fisher Scientific. Dekkers thereby created a company (Thermo Fisher Scientific) with 35,000 employees in six business groups.
On January 1, 2010 Dekkers was appointed to the board of Bayer AG, on October 1, 2010 he took over as CEO from Werner Wenning.
On June 3, 2014 Bayer AG announced that the Supervisory Board extended the contract of Marijn Dekkers in line with his own wishes by just two years on expiration of the initial five-year period. Dekkers cited family reasons for extending his contract only until the end of 2016.
Dekkers is a member of the Board of Directors of General Electric in the USA. He is President of the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), Frankfurt, and Vice President of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Berlin. Dekkers is also a member of the Business Council and the Business Roundtable, two U.S.-based associations of business leaders and CEOs.
Awards and recognition
"Manager of the Year 2014" by German business magazine "Manager Magazin" 
"Business person of the Year 2015" by the "Finanzen Verlag" publishing group and the readers of its publications "€uro am Sonntag", "€uro" and "Börse online" 
"Most Innovative CEO International 2015" by the German industry's "Innovation Award" 
In 2013 some controversy was sparked during a Financial Times panel discussion with relation to Bayer's kidney and liver cancer drug Nexavar.
He spoke at a conference in 2014, saying
So now, is this going to have a big effect on our business model? No, because we did not develop this product for the Indian market, let's be honest. I mean, you know, we developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly.
Médecins Sans Frontières responded to Dekkers comment saying that it
sums up everything that is wrong with the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Bayer is effectively admitting that the drugs they develop are deliberately going to be rationed to the wealthiest patients.
Dekkers replied to this, referring to the decision made by the Indian government, not to protect a patent on Nexavar and the intellectual property of Bayer. He also said:
I regret that what was a quick response from me within the framework of a panel discussion at the recent FT Pharma conference has come across in a different way as it was meant by myself. It could not be more opposite to what I want and we do at Bayer.
Marijn Dekkers holds both Dutch and U.S. citizenship. He is married and lives with his wife Andra Moffett Dekkers and his three daughters in Düsseldorf. He is passionate tennis player.
References and Notes
- Jump up
^ Gisela Maria Freisinger und Martin Noe, Überfliegender Holländer, in: Manager Magazin, January 2010 (1/2010), Vol. 40, pp. 36.
- Jump up
^ Title of Thesis: The Deformation Behaviour of Glass Beaded-Filled Glassy Polymers
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
^ The original quote causing the debate was "Is this going to have a big effect on our business model? No, because we did not develop this product for the Indian market, let’s be honest. We developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology product." – Columbia Journalism Review, January 29, 2014, Videorecording of the panel (19:00 – 19:30)
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
- Jump up
Good Chemistry at Bayer
Aggressive and outspoken, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers talks about the problems with the U.S. patent system and government demands for lower drug prices—and how he hopes to drive results at this 148-year-old German firm.
October 8, 2011
"As a tennis player, you win or you lose, and you can't blame anybody," says Marijn Dekkers, CEO of module article chiclet Bayer AG and a former No. 2-ranked junior tennis player in the Netherlands. "So you learn relatively early on when you are winning not to become arrogant. And, as a young child, when you do lose, having to deal with defeat on your own is a pretty good lesson."
Dekkers, 54 years old, has had more wins than losses in his 25-year business career, which has included stints at module article chiclet General Electric, AlliedSignal and module article chiclet Honeywell, and 10 years at what is now module article chiclet Thermo Fisher Scientific, eight of them as CEO. During his tenure at Thermo, the stock price more than doubled, while the market fell 26%.
Nearly 40 years later, tennis continues to inform his decision making: "When you go on the court you have to perform, and that means you have to think about your food, you have to think about your sleep, vitamins, not getting cramps. And you never know if it is going to be raining. So you learn how to manage when you peak in performance. And in business that is actually a very important part of how you manage your day. When you have the critical meeting or presentation, how do you peak for that? Managing your energy is a key thing that you learn as a tennis player."
In October 2010, Dekkers was named chairman of the board of management—the U.S. equivalent of CEO—at Bayer, the $46 billion German pharmaceuticals and chemicals maker best known for aspirin. Bayer (ticker: BAYRY) is expected to have $49 billion in revenue this year. Aspirin, which the company invented in 1897, still brings in $1 billion a year, blockbuster status for a 114-year-old drug.
But other issues, like patent expirations and government pressure on drug pricing, are not so easy, and Dekkers is not shy about speaking out about them.
BUSINESS WASN'T DEKKERS' first career choice, or even his second. Raised in Tilburg, a small city in the Netherlands, he received a classical education, including Latin and Greek. At 16, he was admitted to a prestigious tennis academy in The Hague, where he could train full-time while finishing his studies.
Circumstances intervened. His mother died, and with his two sisters away at college, his father asked him to defer his admission for a year. Without that high-level training and competition, he lost his edge. "That year I sort of lost my connection to tennis," he says.
Dekkers, who remains fit and trim, quickly found another outlet for energy and ambition. "I got more and more focused on my studies and decided to study chemistry and get a Ph.D.," he recalls. "I was not that good a student when I was playing tennis a lot, because I just didn't have the time. But then when I became less of a tennis player I wanted to be a very good student."
And so he did, earning an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Radboud University and a masters and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Technical University Eindhoven. His new goal was to become a university professor. "The typical career track for a professor at the university in the Netherlands was to work a number of years in industry and then come back, say, after 10 years, when you are around 40, and take a full professorship," he explains.
At 28, he left to take a position as a staff scientist developing polymer blends at GE's Global Research facility in Schenectady, N.Y. And he didn't look back.
DEKKERS TOOK THE HELM of Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer at a critical time for the 148-year-old company. Of the company's three segments, pharmaceuticals,is the highest-profile, garnering about $14.5 billion in revenue last year, or 30% of the total and 43% of operating profits. Only one of the company's big drugs, Yaz birth-control pills, has lost patent protection, and the company has a strong pipeline of new drugs. Its cyclical chemicals business, which comprised 30% of revenue and less of profits, has recovered from the last economic turndown. Crop protection, including fungicides, pesticides and disease-resistant seeds, makes up the balance and is a steady single-digit grower.
Some observers argue that the businesses have little in common, and that the company should be broken up, Dekkers says that option is not on the table. The chemist in him explains that they all derive from the innovative use of molecules. And the key to Bayer's success, he says, is and has always been to keep inventing new molecules for which it can charge a lot of money.
Last year, Bayer spent $4 billion on research and development, up 11% over 2009, and it will spend a like amount this year.
Known for charging the net on the tennis court, Dekkers is equally aggressive when he talks about the challenges facing the pharmaceuticals industry.
"It gets harder and harder to spend a lot of money on innovation and to be financially rewarded for it," he says, arguing that the U.S. courts have watered down patent protection. And the big drug makers, he says, are easy targets for governments. "What's easier than just saying to the 15 largest pharma companies, 'We want a rebate'? It is a lot easier than closing 200 hospitals in rural areas in the country, even though that is actually more needed."
HAVING SPENT NEARLY TWO DOZEN years in the U.S., working under some of the best minds in industrial management—Jack Welch and Jeffrey Immelt at GE, and Larry Bossidy at AlliedSignal and Honeywell—Dekkers has strong opinions on the subject.
"It is easy, as a CEO, to get isolated. Usually, if you don't fight it, it will happen, and that's quite dangerous, because then you get very filtered information, and it doesn't allow you to make the right decisions."
At GE Plastics, Dekkers worked closely with Immelt, who he says "was a wonderful communicator and very good at market segmentation." But while he was named technologist of the year in the late 80s for his work with polymers, what he really wanted to do was run a business. Lacking an MBA, he felt his chances of moving up at GE were slim.
So in 1995, he hired on at AlliedSignal, run by former GE hand Larry Bossidy. Over the next five years, he ran three businesses of increasing size. "Bossidy was an extremely results-oriented person," he recalls, "but he gave you the tools to get to the results."
Bossidy returns the compliment, calling Dekkers "a very productive and efficient and smart guy," with a good analytical mind.
AlliedSignal was acquired by Honeywell in 1999. The following year, Dekkers moved to Thermo Electron, a maker of laboratory instruments with 24 separate publicly traded divisions. "I saw there was very good technology there, but pretty much everything else was a mess," says Dekkers, who came in as chief operating officer and moved up to CEO in 2002. "We had 75 different brands."
Some of Thermo's divisions were spun off completely, and the rest were consolidated into a single brand. In 2006, he spearheaded a transformative acquisition, buying the much larger rival Fisher Scientific for $10.6 billion in stock. And Thermo, he takes care to note, paid no premium in the deal. "Every deal is a good idea, but when you pay too much, it quickly becomes a bad idea."
The deal ultimately paid off for shareholders of both companies. Now the world's largest producer of lab instruments, Thermo's shares rose 10% in a sharply down market from the time the acquisition was announced to when Dekkers exited in late 2009.
Dekker's skill at managing a portfolio of businesses and his experience in the capital markets no doubt made him an attractive catch for Bayer.
NONE OF BAYER'S CURRENT big drugs, including Kogenate, a $1.4 billion treatment for hemophilia, and Nexavar, a nearly $1 billion drug for liver and kidney cancer, face imminent patent expirations, and Dekkers says he inherited a strong pipeline with "five or six dream products."
One promising compound is Xarelto, a blood thinner developed with module article chiclet Johnson & Johnson that is now in Phase III clinical trials in the U.S. Dekkers thinks Xarelto could bring Bayer $2.5 billion to $3 billion in annual revenues. But that's not exactly easy money. "Between Johnson & Johnson and us, we will have spent two billion euros [$2.68 billion] on this thing by the time it's commercialized. And we haven't sold anything yet."
Another, Alpharadin, which is designed to treat prostate cancer after it metastasizes in the bones, is also in Phase III. Bone tumors need calcium to grow, Dekkers explains. Alpharadin is a radioactive calcium compound, and when the tumors go after it, the radiation destroys them.
Bayer also produces over-the-counter drugs, such as Aleve and Alka-Seltzer, and it has roughly a third of the global market for aspirin, according to Nicholas Hall & Co., a U.K.-based firm that tracks consumer health-care trends.
Bayer also does a strong business in animal health, and Dekkers points out that ingredients in insecticides that are sprayed on plants, corn, soybeans are also used for tick control and flea control in dogs.
Materials, like plastics for autos and construction, is the straggler in Bayer's portfolio, with sales down 3% from their peak. But Dekkers argues that polycarbonates, which are used in auto manufacturing to reduce weight, can grow faster than GDP.
Bayer's Frankfurt-traded shares, which closed Thursday at €41.14, are down 20% since Dekkers came in, compared with a 10% decline for the MSCI EAFE index.
But Dekkers doesn't fret about the stock price, at least for now. For American CEOs, he says, "the stock price is such a presence all day long. What is the stock doing, and how are investors reacting? What can I do to get the stock price up?
"That characteristic is much less present in a German company, where there is a balance between shareholders, employees, society and of course customers."
Which approach is better?
"It is easy to make quicker decisions here," says Dekkers, who met with Barron's in our New York offices last month, and management has more flexibility.
"There, it is harder to do things quickly. You need to bring more people along," including worker representatives and government officials, "and it is a longer process. But maybe in the end, also more sustainable because you are not just trying to please shareholders in the short term."
And having experienced both approaches?
"I don't think of it just this way or that," he replies. "I look at the conditions that are provided to me and then try to [excel] under those conditions."
So while there may not be big changes at Bayer in the next quarter or even next year, Dekkers, the competitor, is unlikely to play from the baseline forever. Ultimately, he will find relief for shareholders' pain.