Meelia era ends at Covidien as Almeida set to take over company

Covidien CEO Rich Meelia


Richard Meelia, the CEO who led Covidien plc (NYSE:COV) in its various incarnations for more than two decades will hand over the keys to the corner officer to José (Joe) Almeida today without fanfare.

Meelia, 62, was named president & CEO of Covidien in June 2007, after it was spun out of the disintegrating Tyco International. He was elected chairman in October 2008 and has been with the company in its different forms for 20 years.

Meelia was also president at Kendall Healthcare Products Co., which was spun into Tyco Healthcare and then Covidien, growing the business from $600 million to more than $10.4 billion in 2010.

Meelia will stay on as non-executive chairman of Covidien’s board for a transition period of up to a year after his retirement, according to a press release

Listen to incoming Covidien CEO Joe Almeida discuss his new position at the MassDevice Big 100 Regional Roundtable on July 11

In a statement sent to MassDevice Meelia said he had every confidence in his successor.

“Joe Almeida is a great leader who has proven his mettle over many years, most recently in his outstanding direction of our Medical Devices segment,” he said. “As I prepare to transition my responsibilities to Joe, I have every confidence that, backed by our superb global workforce, he will lead our Company on to even better performance and greater success in the years to come.”

In December, a contemplative Meelia discussed his tenure with both Covidien and Tyco, saying that the biggest challenge for him was transforming the culture of the company from an “EPS [earnings per share] era to the innovation-era,” putting significant resources into research and development.

Meelia also detailed navigating the company through the 2002 scandal involving Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco, who was convicted in 2005 of taking more than $100 million from the company. He is serving eight to 25 years in a New York state prison.

“No one knew that there were all these apartments, $6,000 shower curtains, $15,000 umbrella stands, forgiven loans. That was when it wasn’t so great to be a part of Tyco,” he said. “That was when all the U.S Surgical t-shirts and the Kendall t-shirts started being worn and all the Tyco clothing was put in the back of the closet.”

Meelia said Tyco Healthcare’s decision to preserve the brands of the companies it acquired “saved our bacon” during the scandal, as they avoided being lumped in with other corporate pariahs like Enron.

The scandal taught him a valuable lesson about compliance, he noted.

“If you don’t have the compliance, the controls, the processes, the policies, the things that keep you out of trouble, you just get into places you don’t ever want to be,” Meelia said. “The first time I understood what a forensic accountant was was when I had 12 of them sitting across the table from me. We were fortunate we had good control that didn’t cause any criminal activity, but that was just luck.”

In addition to his obligation to COV, Meelia has also rejoined the board of directors at Braintree, Mass.-based blood management company Haemonetics Corp. (NYSE:HAE).

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