Henry A. McKinnell Jr.

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WHO IS ‘Henry A. McKinnell Jr.’

Henry A. McKinnell Jr. is a former chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of Pfizer. McKinnell spent nearly his entire career at the pharmaceutical giant, rising to become its chairman and CEO in 2001 – exactly 30 years after he joined the firm. He retired as CEO in 2006.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Henry A. McKinnell Jr.’

Born in British Columbia in 1943, McKinnell graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in business. He then attended Stanford Business School in the U.S., earning a MBA and Ph.d in business administration.

After a three-year stint at American Standard, he signed on with Pfizer in 1971. He rose steadily in the corporate ranks: He was named Chief Financial Officer, his first finance job, and president of Pfizer’s U.S. Pharmaceutical Division in 1994. By 1997 he was again promoted: as President of Pfizer’s Global Pharmaceuticals Group, the company’s principal operating division, he was responsible for worldwide pharmaceutical operations. He was Executive Vice President from 1992 to 1999 and then President and Chief Operating Officer from May 1999 to May 2001. In January 2001 he took over the reins as CEO, and by May he added the position of chairman of the board.

McKinnell Jr. and Pfizer received many accolades during his tenure, including his being elected chairman emeritus of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Pfizer being named one of the world’s most admired companies (by both Fortune and Med Ad News in 2003), the world’s most generous company (by the Journal of Philanthropy in 2002) and America’s second smartest company, after General Electric (by Fortune in 2001). In 2003, McKinnell won the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship for expanding Pfizer’s philanthropic activities both in the United States and in the developing world.

When it came to mergers, Pfizer had taken a fairly conservative approach throughout most of its history. McKinnell adopted a more aggressive one. He led the company to acquire Warner-Lambert in 2000 and Pharmacia in 2003. Unfortunately, Pfizer’s numerous acquisitions, which were often funded through stock-for-stock transactions, had a negative effect on its share price, which dropped from about $50 to $30 per share (adjusted for splits) from 1999 to 2006 – and about 40% during McKinnell’s tenure as CEO. While revenues rose, net income declined. Analysts criticized McKinnell for diluting shareholder value. It didn’t help that he was receiving record amounts of compensation throughout, taking a 72% pay increase in 2005. Amid declining investor confidence and board dissatisfaction, he resigned as CEO in 2006, though he remained a director until 2007. He departed with a $180-$200 million retirement package (depending, ironically, on whether the shares’ future performance made him eligible for a stock award).

McKinnell’s Other Positions

McKinnell has held seats on several boards of directors.

He served as Chairman of Optimer Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until 2013 and Emmaus Life Sciences until 2015. He served as a director of Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until 2011, ExxonMobil Corporation from 2002 tol 2007 and John Wiley & Sons until 2005.

He currently serves as a director of ViewRay, Inc. and ChemoCentryx, Inc. Since 1997, he has also been a director of Moody’s, and is currently Chairman of its Board of Directors.