Ludwig named CEO at Becton

Former president of Sparks operation now heads parent

Executive suite

November 23, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

The former president of Becton Dickinson Diagnostics in Sparks was appointed chief executive officer yesterday of parent company Becton Dickinson & Co. in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Edward J. Ludwig headed the Sparks operation, which employs about 2,000, from 1989 to 1994. He was appointed president of the entire company in May and will retain that title. He was also appointed to the board of directors yesterday.

He succeeds Clateo Castellini, who said he will retire Dec. 31 but remain chairman of the board.

The Sparks facility manufactures diagnostic equipment, including ProbeTec, which detects sexually transmitted diseases. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the product for marketing two weeks ago.

"I've been part of the leadership team for five or six years, and we have been going through a positive transition," Ludwig, 48, said yesterday. "We're encouraging people to be more entrepreneurial, to feel like the owners of the business, to be more free to express themselves."

The effort hasn't gone unnoticed.

"In the late '80s, the company was very stodgy, but it has changed a lot," said Juan V. Noble, an analyst at Fahnestock & Co. "That is not to say [Ludwig] is a different breed of man than the old guard, but the company is trying to become much more technology driven and he's probably well-suited for that."

Ludwig and analysts agreed that one of his biggest challenges will be to rebuild credibility at the company. The past two quarters did not live up to expectations -- a result, Ludwig said, of promising too much.

"I peg him as a straight-shooter," said Brian Kim, a research analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. "But it still remains to be seen if he can deliver on his promises. A lot of people are waiting to see."

Ludwig said he expects revenue to grow by 10 percent next year -- 2 percent from acquisitions and 8 percent from underlying growth.

The company employs 22,000 people worldwide and had revenue of $3.4 billion in fiscal 1999, which ended Sept. 30, up 9.7 percent from $3.1 billion in 1998. Net income in 1999 rose 16 percent to $276 million.

Ludwig said he is hoping that once his predictions come to fruition, Wall Street will respond accordingly. The stock was trading above $44 in December but has since fallen to close at $28.50 yesterday, down 75 cents.

"My challenge is to put up the numbers and show we can do what we say we can do," he said.

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