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CEO Sees Few Cuts at Talecris

From News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) (June 8, 2011)

June 08--Victor Grifols Roura had a simple message for the more than 2,000 Triangle employees who are now part of his Spanish company's global plasma business.

"Talecris is a very efficient company," said Grifols, CEO of Barcelona-based Grifols SA. "We are not coming here with a sword."

Grifols' $4 billion acquisition of Talecris, which closed last week, has caused plenty of anxiety among employees who fear widespread layoffs. Grifols tried to allay those fears during an interview late Monday.

He said he expects that after the Talecris acquisition, the total number of jobs eliminated to be less than 5 percent of the 8,500 people Grifols now employs in the U.S.

How many of those cuts might occur in the Triangle is unclear. The local operations include Talecris' headquarters in Research Triangle Park and a drug factory in Clayton.

Grifols and Talecris make medicine from blood plasma, used to treat a wide range of diseases, including hemophilia and various immune system deficiencies. The Talecris acquisition gives Grifols, which has a large share of the market in Europe, a stronger foothold in North America.

Grifols already has operations in Los Angeles, where it has offices and a drug-manufacturing facility, and the merger will create some redundant positions.

But Grifols said his team is interested in keeping the best employees, whether they are in Los Angeles or the Triangle. He said the company will continue to maintain a large executive presence in the Triangle.

"Officially, the headquarters are in Los Angeles," he said. "But some of the vice presidents will be here. I don't care if they live here or in Los Angeles."

At arm's length

Grifols met with his newest employees Tuesday afternoon before heading back to Spain.

Grifols executives have had minimal contact with their counterparts at Talecris since the deal was announced for fear of upsetting antitrust regulators. The acquisition was announced a year ago but required approval from the Federal Trade Commission, which was worried that consolidation would lead to higher prices for drugs.

That prevented the two companies from moving ahead with an integration plan until now. Starting today, the Grifols name will replace Talecris on all signs at the company's offices in RTP and its facility in Clayton.

Grifols is considering keeping the Talecris name on its chain of blood-plasma collection centers.

More of the integration plan will be fleshed out when the new board of directors for Grifols' U.S. operations meets in the Triangle this month.

Grifols said that although many Talecris employees have been wondering whether they'll be fired, he has had the opposite concern -- that the merger will cause an exodus of talent.

Talecris' CEO, Lawrence Stern, has already left the company.

Time in the U.S.

Grifols, 61, is the grandson of the company's founder. He took over as CEO in 1985 from his father, Victor Grifols Lucas, who at 91 still does research and development work for the company.

Victor Grifols first visited the Triangle a decade ago while doing due-diligence on a possible bid for Bayer's blood-plasma business. That business became Talecris after Cerberus Capital Management and another investment firm purchased it in 2005.

Grifols never made a bid, choosing instead to get a foothold in the U.S. market by purchasing the assets of Alpha Therapeutic Corp. in 2003.

Victor Grifols spent considerable time in Los Angeles in recent years building up that business, commuting to work on a Honda scooter. He expects the Talecris acquisition will require less of his attention, but he still expects to visit the Triangle every couple of months.

A self-described train fanatic, Grifols' only complaint about the Triangle is its lack of a convenient rail system.

"Tell somebody to push for the trains," he said. or 919-829-4548


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Posted: June 2011