Saunders returns as B&L chief

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Bausch & Lomb Inc. has returned Brent Saunders to his position as CEO.

The eye-care company announced Saunders’ reappointment as CEO and named him board chair  Wednesday. The positions become effective March 6 on the day Joseph Papa is slated to step down as CEO and resign as a director. Papa served as B&L’s chairman and CEO from 2016 to 2022. He has since given up the chairmanship but retained a board seat.  

Brent Saunders
(Photo: LinkedIn)

Saunders, who served as the firm’s CEO between 2010 and 2013, plans to report to work at B&L early, returning to the company tomorrow and spending the next several weeks alongside Papa. Saunders’ resume includes CEO and board chair positions at pharmaceutical firms like Schering-Plough Corp., Forest Laboratories Inc., Actavis PLC, Allergan PLC and The Beauty Health Co.

Founded and headquartered in Rochester in the 19th century, Bausch & Lomb for much of the 20th century was known along with Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp. as one of the area’s “Big Three” manufacturing employers.

Since its 2013 acquisition by Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc., Bausch & Lomb has been nominally headquartered in Canada. The move to Canada was seen as a largely paper move for tax purposes. Valeant CEO Michael Pearson cut Rochester employment and moved some of the firm’s operations to New Jersey, where it currently maintains its corporate headquarters. The company employs 12,000 people worldwide.

Five years prior to its acquisition by Valeant, the then publicly held B&L had been acquired by Warburg Pincus LLC, a New York City based private equity firm that took the eyecare company private and named Saunders as CEO. The Warburg Pincus acquisition followed accounting irregularities that drew Securities and Exchange Commission scrutiny.

Under Pearson, who returned B&L to public trading, the company embarked on an aggressive series of acquisitions meant to add to its portfolio of eye-care pharmaceuticals. Under Pearson’s watch, however, B&L again drew unwanted attention from the SEC and the Department of Justice over accusations that it had engineered shadow sales to falsely pad revenues.  In 2016, Pearson, a onetime McKinsey & Co. consultant, resigned as his health deteriorated.

Valeant subsequently rechristened itself Bausch & Lomb.

Bausch & Lomb shares (NYSE:BLCO) early Wednesday afternoon were trading at $18.49, up $1.51.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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