“Saying The Soft Part… Too Loud” — Fred Hassan’s Mentorships? This Is HILARIOUS!

In an article that purports to be about how Mr. “Fast Fred” Hassan, former CEO of Schering-Plough, mentors new young would-be public company CEOs — we learn that at least one protégé of Fast Fred seems a little short, on the ethical dimension. This, from his own board of directors. The article was, I take it, supposed to highlight Hassan’s able grooming of emerging leaders, not corporate jet flight-attendant romancers. The article nicely does so, as to the other executive profiled, the former CEO of Campbells’ Soups. Seriously, even if I was trying — I could not make this stuff up. Do go read it all.

From The Wall Street Journal, overnight, then:

. . . .Mr. Hassan brought Mr. MacMillan to Pharmacia in 2000 to oversee consumer products and four smaller divisions. He says he soon alerted fellow directors that the executive “could be a potential CEO.”

Ahead of board presentations, he coached Mr. MacMillan to keep things simple, leave time for frank discussion and “show your humility,” Mr. Hassan remembers. “Really value what (directors) say,” he told his protégé. “It can’t be fake.”

Pharmacia board member William U. Parfet was so impressed that in 2003, he recruited Mr. MacMillan to be president of Stryker Corp., where Mr. Parfet also was a director. Promoted to CEO of the medical-device maker at age 41 in January 2005, Mr. MacMillan won analysts’ accolades for its steady performance as the orthopedics market stalled.

Yet Stryker forced out Mr. MacMillan early last year, partly because some directors were bothered by his relationship with an ex-flight attendant for its corporate jets while his wife pursued a divorce, people familiar with the situation have said. In hindsight, Mr. MacMillan realizes he joined Stryker when he had just begun to grasp the nuances of board management from Mr. Hassan.

“Managing a board was not my strength at Stryker,” Mr. MacMillan concedes. “It hurt me.” He now leads sBioMed LLC, a private manufacturer of infection-control products. . . .

R-e-e-e-e-e-ally?! You think so? Nah. . . I don’t. Priceless.

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