“I'm here to stimulate people, energize people, hopefully empower people to innovate, bring out new products, grow,” says Gerald Ostrov, just days after taking on the position of chairman and CEO of Bausch and Lomb.
Ostrov, 58, has been meeting as many employees as possible in Rochester and around the nation this week; it is his top priority at the moment. Ostrov succeeds Ronald Zarrella who recently announced his retirement.
“My plan is to spend some time here and then start to travel and then meet people around the world,” says Ostrov, “our people are our biggest asset and I think if we can establish our trust through our employees in the community.”
The community-based mentality is something Ostrov brings with him from Johnson & Johnson, where he worked for more than 20 years. Ostrov led Johnson & Johnson’s eye care division for eight years before stepping down in 2006 to pursue other ventures. In addition to meeting his employees, Ostrov is also focused on getting Bausch and Lomb more involved in the communities where it does business.
“Certainly, we want to be wide open, we want to be visible to the community. We're proud of the community, we're hoping the community will be proud of us,” says Ostrov, “the best way to establish trust is to have great products.”
B & L will continue to improve its current product line of eye care from contact lenses to solutions, however, Ostrov says he's committed to making big investments in research and development. Some of the research which will happen in Rochester using collaborations with RIT and the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“I've been in a lot of situations where I come into companies and change of leadership,” says Ostrov, “and my message is that the company should always focus on what it does well, not really worry that much about competition, you have to understand competition. There are investments that we're making today that we probably won't get a return on for many years but you have to got to make them otherwise you're sitting a few years from now without those opportunities.”
It is a refreshing thought for a company that has seen a rough couple of years. One of the eye care giant's top-selling products, Renu with Moisture Loc, was pulled from shelves after fears of a dangerous eye infection. Even though a direct link between the solution and infections was never found, the company's stock went into a financial freefall as a result; the company also faced millions of dollars in lawsuits. In 2007, B & L was bought out by the private equity firm Warburg-Pincus, making it a private company once again; it's a unique financial position Ostrov hopes to capitalize on.
“Trying to cater to Wall Street is somewhat limiting in what you can do.”
The limitations of a public company are why Ostrov says Bausch and Lomb will not be going public anytime soon.
“It's possible but it's not something we're going to focus on doing what we do well. If it happens, it happens. When it happens, it happens. It's not anything I've been asked to focus on.”
Ostrov will be making Rochester his home, and he intends to keep B & L's world headquarters in Rochester.
“I like to be open. I think that we should be proud of what we are therefore, access to our community is a good thing. Obviously, we're a key Rochester company, we should have a role here.”
Something on the minds of many: Ostrov says there are no planned layoffs in the company.
“My focus is on growth. How do we grow the sales of the company and obviously you want a growth company, you want an efficient company...so you can't save your way to profitability.”