William Weldon Biography

Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson

William Weldon

Born November 26, 1948, in New York, New York; son of a union stagehand and a costumer; married Barbara Dearborn; children: one son, one daughter. Education: Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT, B.S., 1971.

Addresses: Office —1 Johnson & Johnson Plaza, New Brunswick, NJ 08933.


Hired by Johnson & Johnson as a salesman in pharmaceutical division, 1971–82; (all following are divisions of Johnson & Johnson) manager, ICOM Regional Development, Southeast Asia, 1982–84; executive vice president, Korea McNeil, 1984–86; executive vice president, Ortho-Cilag Pharmaceutical, 1986–89; vice president, sales and marketing, Janssen Pharmaceutica, 1989–92; president, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, 1992–95; company chairman, Johnson & Johnson, and franchise chairman, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, 1998–2001; executive committee, Johnson & Johnson, and worldwide chairman, Pharmaceuticals Group, 2001–02; chairman and CEO, 2002–.

Member: Board, J. P. Morgan Chase & Co.; board, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; vice chairman of the Business Council; Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Professions Workforce; board of trustees, Quinnipiac University; Liberty Science Center Chairman's Advisory Council.

Awards: Public Service Award, Advertising Council, for his philanthropic dedication, 2006.


William Weldon worked his way from the lowest ranks of Johnson & Johnson, the well-known name associated with such products as baby shampoo and bandages, to become the sixth chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the company. He is a classic model of the intense salesman—energized and inspired by the work that goes into selling a product. Amy Barrett reported in BusinessWeek that Weldon is known for saying, "It's no fun to be second." It's this philosophy that drives him to succeed and one that he expects from those who work with and for him.

Weldon was born on November 26, 1948, in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. His father was a union stagehand for Broadway performances while his mother worked as a seamstress for ballet and theater. In fact, she was responsible for the wardrobe of actress Marilyn Monroe during her performance for U.S. President John F. Kennedy's birthday celebration. When she finally retired in 2002, she was 80 years old. Obviously inspired by his parents' work ethic, Weldon told Barrett, "My parents were very hardworking, union people. It's a tough life."

Weldon attended Ridgewood High School in New Jersey where he played on the basketball and football teams. A dedicated athlete throughout his life, especially in basketball, Weldon has had business offices designed to contain basketball courts. After graduating from high school, Weldon applied to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. To put himself through school he worked as a mover on weekends and holidays. While still in college he married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Dearborn.

In 1971, he graduated from Quinnipiac with a bachelor's degree in biology. He interviewed for a job as a sales representative and got it based on an outstanding performance creating an impromptu sales pitch for a ballpoint pen. The company he was hired to work for was Johnson & Johnson, in their McNeil Pharmaceuticals division. In his more than 30-year-long career with many different units of Johnson & Johnson, Weldon has effectively only had one interview.

Throughout the 1980s, Weldon rose up through the ranks of the company. Most of his time during that decade he held manager and vice-presidential titles for some of the overseas divisions of Johnson & Johnson, like McNeil Limited in Korea and Ortho-Cilag Pharmaceutical in the United Kingdom. In 1995, he became president of Ethicon Endo-Surgery. The new unit was focused on endoscopic surgery and the tools associated with it. Weldon pursued sales in that area dogmatically and by 1996 Ethicon had surpassed the sales of the previous tool sales company.

In 1998, he joined the executive committee and became worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals. In this role, Weldon once again found himself striving to cover new territory. He stepped in and retooled how the decisions regarding what drugs to pursue were made. Instead of allowing the research scientists to decide on their own, he added research and development executives as well as managers from sales and marketing. In 2001, he was a key player in the acquisition of Alza Corporation, a company that had been competing with Johnson & Johnson in the area of drug delivery. For Johnson & Johnson, it was one of the company's largest acquisitions at the price of $13.2 billion.

In 2002, Weldon succeeded former CEO Ralph Larsen, who had held the position since the late 1980s. In a company well-known for only hiring from within its ranks, it was an expected move. Also considered one of the best-run companies in the world, Weldon had huge expectations to meet. He would now be the head of a company with more than a century of history that was comprised of 204 businesses that covered the areas of drugs, medical devices, and consumer products. Weldon would be facing demands to keep the company growing at rates that had been stable for more than 20 years.

To Weldon's advantage is the existance of all those different businesses, which gives Johnson & Johnson a depth that few other companies can match. By combining strategies from the different units, Johnson & Johnson will be, as BusinessWeek 's Barrett wrote, "perfectly positioned to profit from this shift toward combining drugs, devices, and diagnostics." Weldon explained to Barrett further, "There is a convergence that will allow us to do things we haven't done before." It does not hurt that the company has more than 9,000 scientists doing research in 40 labs across the globe.

Weldon also has the advantage of an excessively competitive spirit. He explained his goal-setting style in a speech given to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, "If you set a goal of 10 and reach 11, that's not really as good as setting a goal of 15 and reaching 14." As another example of Weldon's hard-driving personality, Nick Valeriani, a colleague of Weldon's while he was head of Ethicon Endo-Surgery, reported to Barrett, "We'd have a great year and Bill would say, 'Nice job. Why couldn't it have been 25 percent higher?'"

In 2005, Weldon was elected to head the board of directors for J. P. Morgan and Chase. His other memberships include the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Professions Workforce as well as being on the Board of Directors for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Vice Chairman for the Business Council. He also dedicates some time to the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Quinnipiac University.

In 2006, Johnson & Johnson bought out the consumer division of drug manufacturer Pfizer. It was one of the biggest purchases for the company with Weldon at the helm. With Pfizer products under their name, Johnson & Johnson could add well-known brands such as Listerine, Nicorette, and Sudafed to their expansive and trusted list of products.

In the past few years, Weldon has expanded his scope to spend time bringing up the new crop of businesspeople. Weldon has shown tenacity throughout his career as well as a genuine love for getting into the game of selling and buying. When Jeff May of Newhouse News Service asked him how long he saw himself working at Johnson & Johnson, Weldon responded, "I love what I'm doing. I just don't think there could be a better organization. I don't see how I could ever want to do anything else. I have no plans, other than to keep doing what I'm doing."



BusinessWeek , May 5, 2003, pp. 60-68.

Newhouse News Service (Washington), March 13, 2007, p. 1.


"Pharmaceuticals Outshine Band-Aids for Johnson & Johnson," Stanford Graduate School of Business, http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/vftt_weldon.shtml (April 16, 2007).

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