Taurel, Sidney 1949–

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Sidney Taurel

Chairman and chief executive officer, Eli Lilly and Company

Nationality: American.

Born: February 9, 1949, in Casablanca, Morocco.

Education: École des Hautes Études Commerciales, 1969; Columbia University, MBA, 1971.

Family: Son of Jose Taurel and Marjorie Afriat; married Kathryn H. Fleischmann, 1977; children: three.

Career: Eli Lilly and Company, 19711972, marketing associate for Eli Lilly International Corporation; 19721976, marketing-plans manager for Brazilian affiliate; 19761981, marketing and sales in Eastern Europe and France; 19811983, general manager of Brazilian affiliate; 19831986, vice president of European operations; 1986, president of Eli Lilly International; 19911993, executive vice president of pharmaceutical division; 19931998, president of pharmaceutical division and executive vice president; 1998, CEO; 1999, chairman and CEO.

Address: Eli Lilly and Company, Lilly Corporate Center, Indianapolis, Indiana 46285; http://www.lilly.com.

With 2003 sales of $12.6 billion, Eli Lilly and Company was best known for its widely popular antidepressants Prozac and Serafem. In addition to neurological, oncological, and diabetes drugs, the company also made antibiotics, growth hormones, antiulcer agents, and cardiovascular therapies as well as animal-health products. As CEO of Eli Lilly beginning in 1998 Sidney Taurel placed a heavy emphasis on research and development, helping the company to establish one of the most promising pipelines in the industry. His other primary contributions as CEO were turning Eli Lilly into a strong business partner and attracting and retaining top executives in the pharmaceutical industry.


Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Taurel lived and worked in the farthest corners of the world. He spoke French, English,

Portuguese, and Spanish and was married to a native of Brazil. Taurel proposed to his wife in Heidelberg, Germany; they became officially engaged in Casablanca; legalized their union in a civil ceremony in Columbus, Ohio; and took part in a religious service in Paris. Taurel noted in Pharmaceutical Executive, "Home has always been wherever I am living at the moment" (March 1, 2001).

After obtaining his MBA in 1971, Taurel, by then a seasoned world traveler, found himself in an unlikely place: Indiana. He told Indiana Business Magazine that he remembered having "no particular desire to work in the pharmaceutical industry. I came to Indianapolis for an interview out of curiosity" (June 1, 1999).

Taurel joined the Lilly subsidiary Eli Lilly International Corporation in 1971 as a marketing associate and was named marketing-plans manager for the Brazilian affiliate the following year. He held various international sales and marketing positions over a 15-year world tour, the highlights of which included helping to engineer turnarounds of Lilly's operations in Brazil and also in Europe. Taurel returned to company headquarters in 1986 as the president of Eli Lilly International. Under his watch the international division's annual sales rose from $500 million to $2 billion, and international sales increased from 30 percent of the parent company's overall sales to 42 percent.


Taurel expressed an acute awareness of the difficulty of recruiting and retaining the industry's best and brightest; he was a proponent of several aggressive human-resources initiatives. According to Pharmaceutical Executive, as president of Lilly International, Taurel started a program to "globalize the company and tap all talent wherever it comes from" (March 1, 2001). The initiative was a success; by 2001 half of the senior executives working at Lilly's corporate headquarters were foreign-born. Those executives were treated with great reverenceTaurel even helped found the International School of Indiana, in Lilly's home town, so that the children of Lilly employees and other members of the community could receive a bilingual education.


Taurel became CEO in July 1998 and chairman on January 1, 1999. Despite a track record of consistently profitable performance, success in his newest role would not be a foregone conclusion. In 2001 patents on Prozac, which accounted for nearly one-third of Lilly's 1998 sales, would expire. Taurel estimated that generic versions of the drug would cause Prozac's sales to drop by about 80 percent. His strategy for surviving the blow included identifying more promising drugs in Lilly's labs that could be quickly brought to market and establishing partnerships with other companies. Regarding the latter approach, Taurel created an office of "alliance management," which analyzed best practices in working with partners. The team of Lilly executives assessed the competition as well as companies outside the industry; surveyed prospective partners for their evaluations of Lilly; and suggested ways to make the company more partner friendly.


Noticeably absent from Taurel's strategyparticularly during the era that saw the unions of Pharmacia and Pfizer and of Sandoz and Ciba-Geigywas the possibility of a merger. While noting that no other pharmaceutical company had emerged from a similarly devastating top-of-the-line-drug expiration without being forced to merge, Taurel believed that his company would be the exception. He told BusinessWeek, "We really want to write the book on how to do it differently; 2001, the year Prozac would expire, has brought a sense of urgency to everything we're doing" (May 24, 1999).

Lilly's surviving independently would require rapid innovation; Taurel was undaunted by the task he set for himself. He said in Pharmaceutical Executive, "If you look at all the mergers and acquisitions that have occurred, they have been driven by a lack of innovation in the companieseither a big patent expiration or not enough in the pipeline to produce growth that meets investors' expectations. Because we are a very fragmented industry, a merger provides an opportunity to rationalize, reduce expenses, and boost earnings in the short term. But so far, nobody has shown that you can put two research organizations together and make them more productive" (March 1, 2001).


Taurel's focus on R&D and innovation was illustrated by Lilly's possession of one of the most promising pipelines in the pharmaceutical industryon which Lilly spent more money than did any other such company. At one point Lilly offered a total of eight new products in a mere two-and-a-half-year period.

In November 2001 the FDA approved Xigris (drotrecogin alfa), which was projected to be a $1 billion blockbuster drug for the treatment of septic infections caused by chemotherapy. Xigris would be the first biotechnology treatment for the most serious stages of sepsis. In 2003 the company launched the first products to spur bone growth in patients with osteoporosis. Lilly also launched Cialis, which treated erectile dysfunction and allegedly worked faster than Viagra, and Strattera, the first nonstimulant for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In 2004 Lilly got approval for Alimta, the first product for mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, as well as for Symbyax, a combination of Prozac and Zyprexa, which would be the first product indicated for the treatment of bipolar depression. The company was preparing to launch Cymbalta, an antidepressant, and was waiting for approval of the first product to treat stress-related urinary incontinence.

Taurel remarked in Pharmaceutical Executive, "I want to make sure we continue to invest very strongly in R&D, and that we maintain a good balance between science and marketing. This is one of Lilly's key strengths that I want to preserve and nurture" (March 1, 2001).

See also entry on Eli Lilly and Company in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Beck, Bill, "The Pipeline: Sidney Taurel's World Vision for Eli Lilly and Co.," Indiana Business Magazine, June 1, 1999, p. 8.

Melcher, Richard A., "Fighting Off Depression at Eli Lilly," BusinessWeek, May 24, 1999, p. 77.

Sellers, L. J., "Lilly's International Family: Sidney Taurel Takes His Global Team Beyond Prozac," Pharmaceutical Executive, March 1, 2001, p. 40.

Tim Halpern