Former Stryker (NYSE:SYK) CEO Stephen MacMillan, whose sudden ouster from the medical device company earlier this year shocked medtech, tells MassDevice.com that he has a new gig: CEO and part-owner of sBioMed, which makes an anti-infection agent called Steriplex SD.
We spoke with a relaxed-sounding MacMillan last week from his new base in Orem, Utah, where SBioMed has its headquarters. In a wide-ranging chat, he told us about the wrenching separation from Stryker, how he adjusted to "civilian life" and what’s behind his latest move.
The impetus to join sBioMed came from a desire to find a business opportunity that would have a meaningful impact on healthcare, MacMillan told us. Eight-year-old sBioMed says the Steriplex SD solution kills clostridium difficile, a healthcare-associated infection that’s named for its notorious hardiness. Citing "user-friendly chemistries," the company says its "non-fuming and non-corrosive" formula is a green alternative to bleach.
"After a decade of research, over 500 studies and EPA registration, we are excited to enter the full-scale commercialization process. With Steve’s leadership, we can help eliminate healthcare-associated infections globally," sBioMed co-founder and chairman Brian Larson said in prepared remarks.
MacMillan told us that the potential market for the product goes far beyond the multi-billion-dollar hospital market.
"There are also enormous opportunities for this product in the animal health world, in the hospitality world, restaurants, hotels, big in the agriculture world, pharmaceutical clean rooms. There are a whole bunch of markets beyond just the core hospital market," he said. "Ultimately I think there is a big consumer angle. What I see is the chance to build a major significant company that is doing some good for the world."
MacMillan declined to specify just how large a stake he acquired in sBioMed, saying only that it was "significant" and "meaningful."
MacMillan resigned from Stryker Feb. 8, citing family reasons, sending shock waves throughout the medical device world. Rumors soon surfaced that his ouster was due to board members’ consternation over his relationship with an ex-employee; it later emerged that MacMillan had sought the board’s approval after his divorce was final and before he began the relationship.
Asked about his very public departure and the attention to his personal life, MacMillan termed his ouster "unfair."
"There are a lot of great people at Stryker. I think my exit was an unfortunate and unfair experience. To me it was unfair, unfortunate and personally challenging," he told us. "My exit was not precipitated by any unethical or poor behavior. Yet it appeared that way, and that was very difficult to deal with, for both me and my family."
Relations with the board were touchy at the outset, as MacMillan was relatively young to helm a major public company (he was named president & COO at 39 and took over the corner office at 41). He was also replacing John Brown, whom MacMillan called "a legend," after 3 decades as CEO.
"As a younger, hard-charging person dramatically changing a company, to adjust it to the new realities, you build some scar tissue with board members," he explained. "We then had to go through a lot of significant changes, the regulatory environment change, we had to move away from delivering 20% earnings growth. We had to make some changes to some of the board structures.
"Then when you start to change over the board and ask a few long-serving people to step down, bring some new ones on, it can create some very difficult dynamics in the boardroom. I think I built up some scar tissue and there became a convenient reason for some members of the board to lose some confidence in me. That just is not a fun environment to operate in."
That said, MacMillan seemed relaxed and energized by his new situation in Utah and fond of his time at Stryker, despite its ugly end.
"I am remarkably proud of what we accomplished at Stryker. During the years I was there, we tripled the revenues, we diversified the business, we dramatically enhanced the quality in manufacturing operations. That’s a real testimony to the strength of the employee base. That’s not the result of any 1 person, but I am very proud of so much of what we did there, still very proud of the employees and company."
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