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A Shot in the Arm

Since taking over the top jobs at Becton Dickinson & Co. i n 1994, Clateo Castellini has been knocking off management goals with the same keen eye he uses on clay pigeons with his custom-made Fabbri over-and-unders.

To start, he’s pushed return on equity from 14 to 22 percent. He has divested low-margin businesses, like the manufacture of surgical gloves, and begun to acquire others more closely aligned with core competencies. Becton has also bought back as much as $350 million in stock per year.

Not surprisingly, this native of Italy fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese-has also boosted international sales, to a current level of 49 percent. “What we’re doing to accelerate sales growth is not really original,” he says. “We are investing outside the United States because it can be a source of growth above 10 percent for all our businesses.” And Wall Street approves; Becton’s shares-flat in the two years preceding his appointment-have since more than doubled.

Judging from BD’s market position, the Street has sound reason to cheer. If you’ve ever been inoculated, chances are Becton Dickinson manufactured the needle. Injection systems accounted for more than $800 million of its $2.8 billion of revenue in fiscal 1996. With 18,000 employees in 40 countries, Becton dominates the market for blood-sample collection, which contributed nearly $500 million. Products for the treatment of diabetes had sales of $400 million. Smaller business segments include technology of cellular analysis, infectious-disease diagnostics, infusion therapy, and tissue culture.

The company controls as much as 70 percent of the clinical market for its core products, but as little as 5 percent of the faster-growing industrial segment, which includes medical laboratories and other research facilities. So the kind of top-line growth Castellini has already wrung out of the 100- year-old BD is likely to continue to grow.

When former boss Ray Gilmartin tapped Castellini as chairman and CEO in June 1994 to take a similar job at Merck & Co., Castellini had already established a reputation both within the company and without. He began his career in his native Italy, where he took a degree in economics from Milan‘s Bocconi University, and joined Lepetit S.A., a pharmaceutical manufacturer that Dow Chemical acquired in the ’60s. Dow transferred him to the U.S., where in 1973, he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He joined Becton in 1978 as president of its Brazil operations, returning to the U.S. in 1984 as international group president.

Castellini’s principal goal as Becton’s chief was to boost net income growth into the double digits. From this flowed other priorities: growing return on equity to 20 percent; raising top-line growth to 10 percent annually; divesting marginal businesses; international growth; de-leveraging through stock buybacks; and strategic acquisitions.

Castellini’s reorganization began in the head office, where he eliminated a layer of sector presidents and gave the seven operational presidents direct reporting responsibility. But it also extends into the field, where work groups have been organized into teams and compensation is increasingly based on output. “Our middle and senior managers act more as coaches, creating a context where all these people on the front line can take more initiative,” he says.

Becton’s free cash flow, he adds, is being used to fund top-line growth through research and acquisitions and to enhance the bottom line through stock buybacks. The research budget was $154 million last year. Another $350 million is budgeted for repurchasing up to 6 million shares annually of company stock and for acquisitions of smaller companies, costing $100 million or less.

The first such purchase was announced earlier this year-a $125 million deal involving the $82 million Difco Laboratories, a manufacturer of media and supplies for microbiology labs. A leader in industrial microbiology, Difco gets 90 percent of revenue domestically and will benefit from its new parent’s worldwide sales capability. “This first move gives us confidence about management’s sound judgment,” wrote Morgan Stanley analysts Glenn Reicin and T.J. Campbell in a “strong buy” recommendation issued March 25.

Foreign expansion lately has been focused on China and India, where new plants have been built. With half of Becton’s revenues coming from outside the U.S., the soaring dollar is not doing its bottom line any good. “The movement of the dollar is always somewhat unpredictable,” he says. But Becton’s shareholders find Castellini himself quite predictable-and they’re predicting new life for the century-old manufacturer.


Chairman, President, and CEO


 Age: 62

Birthplace: Milan, Italy

Family: Wife, Maria; children, Andrew, 35, Paola, 33, Maria Victoria, 31, Cecilia, 29. Education: B.A., economics, Bocconi Univerisity; and M.B.A at the Harvard Business School Leadership style: “Creating a context of participation and involvement… From a strategic point of view, I try to ask the right questions.”

Last book read: The Island of the Color Blind, a treatise by neurosurgeon Oliver Sacks on how natural organisms respond to the limits of their environment.

Favorite Pastime: “I used to play golf and do a lot of fly fishing and hunting, but currently I must say Becton Dickinson is very absorbing for me.”

Favorite city: “It’s a lake: Lago Maggiori. It’s where I have spent every one of my 62 summers.”

Higher calling: “I am a firm believer that progress and wealth come from free markets, free trade, and small government.”

Disconnect time: Driving. “I love a sports car.” Former model: Ferrari; current model: Porsche Targa 911


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