Novartis names new division head at Alcon Labs in Fort Worth

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on Wednesday named a new division president for its Fort Worth-based Alcon Labs.

Jeff George, 40, who now heads the Novartis generic drugs division, Sandoz, which has its global headquarters in Holzkirchen, Germany, will succeed Kevin Buehler, who is retiring from Alcon, a maker of pharmaceuticals for eyes, after 30 years.

George will take over on May 1, and Buehler will provide management and strategic support during a transition period, Novartis said.

“I want to thank Kevin Buehler for his strong leadership and contributions to Alcon’s success over the years, and for leading Alcon through the merger and integration with Novartis,” said Joseph Jimenez, Novartis’s chief executive, in a statement. “He will be missed.”

Buehler joined Alcon in 1984 as a regional sales manager. Novartis acquired Alcon in 2011.

Alcon is Novartis’s second-largest division by revenue, the company said. It makes ophthalmic surgical products and pharmaceuticals, as well as contact lenses and solutions. Last year, Alcon reported sales of $10.5 billion, or 18 percent of the company’s total sales, Novartis said.

Alcon employs 25,494 workers in 75 countries, including about 4,800 in Fort Worth. Its products are sold in 180 markets.

Robert Francis, a senior vice president with Biogen Idec, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company, has been named to succeed George at Sandoz, Novartis said. Sandoz is Novartis’s third-largest division.

“The appointments of Jeff George as the new Division Head of Alcon, and of Richard Francis as new Division Head of Sandoz, place two strong leaders at the helm of two leading Novartis businesses,” Jimenez said. “These new leaders will set the direction for the next phase of growth for our eye care and generics businesses, two of our core growth engines.”

George joined Sandoz in January 2007 and in December 2008 was named a division head. He is credited with building Sandoz sales to $9.2 billion in 2013 from $7.5 billion in 2009. He also oversaw its expansion to 164 countries, where it has more than 26,000 associates, Novartis said.

He also held leadership positions in the vaccines and diagnostics and the pharmaceuticals divisions at Sandoz.

Before joining Novartis, George held executive positions with Gap Inc. and McKinsey & Co. in San Francisco, a global management consulting firm.

George holds an MBA from Harvard University, a master’s degree in international economics from Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.