The Korea Herald


Multinational drug makers bet on young CEOs

By 최희석

Published : Jan. 10, 2011 - 17:57

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Multinational drug companies are installing young and aggressive leaders to head their Korean operations in an increasingly competitive local market.

Ranga Welaratne, 38, was appointed on Jan. 3 as the new head of the Korean branch of Sanofi-Pasteur, Sanofi-Aventis group’s vaccine division, becoming the latest CEO in their 30s to 40s to lead a multinational pharmaceutical firms’ Korean branch.

Having joined the company in 2003, Welaratne quickly moved up the corporate ladder, serving in key positions in the firm’s Australian and Chinese operations before becoming an executive in charge of vaccine business

Welaratne’s appointment came two days after Kim Sang-jin, 45, was shuffled around to lead Janssen Korea, left his previous post as the head of the company’s Taiwan branch.

Kim is another whose abilities were recognized relatively quickly.
Ranga Welaratne Ranga Welaratne

Despite having joined as a regular employee in 1991, unlike other young CEOs of multinational pharmaceuticals makers’ Korean branches who started in managerial positions, he was tasked to lead Janssen’s Hong Kong division in 2006. During his time in Hong Kong sales of new products are said to have grown at an annual average of 40 percent. In addition, Janssen Taiwan is said to have numbered among the top markets for Janssen in the Asia Pacific during his two-year stint as branch chief.

However, Kim and Welaratne aren’t the only young CEOs leading multinational drug makers’ Korean businesses.

Park Sang-jin, who was appointed as the head of AstraZeneca Korea late last year, and Michael Berry of BMS Pharmaceutical Korea are also 40.

Park has also ascended the corporate ladder at high speed, nabbing the position of a national branch head eight years after joining the company.

After giving up a career as a doctor in Germany, Park has gone through a number of managerial positions including that of executive in charge of marketing in Korea, and then for Asia Pacific.

While relatively young, such men have been preceded by Chris Lee, currently the head of Bayer Schering Asia Pacific, who was appointed as the president of MSD Korea at age 28 before moving on to head BMS Pharmaceutical’s Korean and Australian branches in his 30s.

By Choi He-suk (