The right offer at the right time.
This is how former CEO in Danish Zealand Pharma, Britt Meelby Jensen, desribes her reason for accepting a new CEO position in Atos Medical last autumn.
"Atos is a super exciting company, which has achieved success during the past years, and I see a great potential in future as well. I considered the chance to be part of realizing this potential an offer I couldn't refuse," says Meelby to MedWatch.
In November last year, she announced her exit from Zealand Pharma after four years as CEO. Back then, the only information about her new workplace was that it was a "non-competing company outside Denmark". A press release from Atos Medical now discloses Meelby as the company's new CEO.
Atos is a super exciting company, which has achieved success during the past years, and I see a great potential in future as well.
Atos Medical is based in Malmo, Sweden's third-biggest city, and produces devices for people, who had the larynx removed because of cancer. The company's main asset is a valve between the gullet and trachea that recreates the ability to speak and a 'heat and moisture exchanger' to rehabilitate the lungs.
The product portfolio was one of the decisive factors when Meelby considered whether to accept the CEO job offer.
"I consider it a new and exciting area. I have to become familiar with new products, but I'm also able to use some of my experience from my many years in drug development, sales and diagnostics," says Meelby, referring to her past in Zealand Pharma, Novo Nordisk and the diagnostics company Dako.
"To me, it's important to have a combination of new disciplines and also be able to draw on the familiar so that I contribute to the business from day one. And then, we are talking about products that make a difference for some rather neglected users," she says.
A difficult decision
For Meelby, leaving Zealand Pharma was a "difficult decision."
"I was very happy to be in Zealand, where I worked for over four years. But Atos' potential and products caught my interest. Moreover – and that was very important to me, too – Zealand was in a position I felt proud to leave the company in," she says.
Zealand Pharma had three projects in phase III, and the company was profiting from the divestment of rights to two products to Royality Pharma.
Ultimately, the combination of a new product portfolio, Atos' growth potential and Zealand Pharma's very good momentum triggered Meelby's decision to throw herself into a new task.
"I get a new opportunity to broaden my competences and get back to use some of my commercial experiences. I look forward to that," says Meelby.
She declines to give details about when exactly Atos Medical contacted her and offered her the job. Neither does she want to disclose when she made her final decision to accept.
"It doesn't happen overnight. I prefer not to give the exact date. But I was contacted regarding the job, and it took some time, from when they contacted me the first time, until I felt ready to make the decision, and we settled all details," says the new CEO, adding:
"These are important decisions. But during autumn, I intensified the discussion with Atos' owners, and in November I informed Zealand that I would resign in the end of February. I think it's the right time."
Little time for preparations
Unlike Zealand Pharma, Atos is not publicly listed. The company was therefore free to decide when to present that Meelby is the new CEO. The news were announced internally one and a half month ago.
"As Atos is not a public company, we don't have the same duty to inform so we announced it in mid-January," says Meelby.
However, she has been fully focused on her job in Zealand Pharma until the end of February and thus had little time for preparing for her new task.
"After all, I don't work all 24 hours, so I spent some time after work familiarizing myself with the business I'm joining. Of course, I spent some evenings and weekends doing so," says the new CEO, adding:
"Now, I look forward to fully focus on Atos and the work with the organization, to meet our users and customers and getting to know the business better."
Meelby already met some of her new Swedish colleagues in mid-January, when Atos' owners presented the new CEO internally in the organization.
After all, I don't work all 24 hours, so I spent some time after work familiarizing myself with the business I'm joining.
Though Atos Medical is headquartered in Malmo, it is a global company with most of the 800 employees spread all over the world, so Meelby's new job also involves a lot of traveling – something she also looks forward to.
"I look forward to travel around and meet the staff members during the next couple of months. I begin with a trip to the US, one of our largest markets, which is growing fast," she says.
Atos' US unit employs 160 people, who Meelby is meeting this week.
"I'm looking very much forward to that. When you start in a new company, it's important to get out and feel the dynamics – not just from the headquarters but closer to the customers and the users. It's important," says Meelby.
Working in Sweden – living in Denmark
Although Meelby's new workplace is based in Malmo and not Copenhagen, her address remains on the Danish side of Oresund. She needs a safe and permanent base, and the opportunity to stay in Denmark was also a decisive factor in her job change.
"I stay with my family in Denmark and will commute over the bridge on daily basis. When I accepted this job, it was important for me that the base and family life fit together," she says.
With three children and a husband with a good job in Denmark, moving the family would be too much of a project.
"The fact that the whole family didn't have to pull up stakes also made the choice easier – there is no doubt about it," says Meelby.
English Edit: Ida Løjmand
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