PROFILE: Winton injects power of people in drug giants

Jeffrey Winton has carved a reputation as one of the hot properties in pharma PR. Having built up Pharmacia's product team, he must now decide whether to stay on with new owner Pfizer.

Jeffrey Winton has carved a reputation as one of the hot properties in pharma PR. Having built up Pharmacia's product team, he must now decide whether to stay on with new owner Pfizer.

Jeffrey Winton finds solace on his 300-year-old farm in Long Valley, NJ, where he raises his nine dogs, or "kids," as he calls them. A polo player at Cornell University, he still rides horses, and his office in Peapack, NJ overlooks the field where the US Olympic Equestrian Team trains. "Working in this industry, you need to have a haven to restore and reenergize," he says. Winton is also active in the United Methodist Church, and plans to pursue a master's in theology some day. Unavoidably, the VP of global communications has been placed in the public eye as Pfizer and Pharmacia brace to come together in one of the most highly publicized pharmaceutical mergers in history. He has been offered a similar role at Pfizer to the one he earned five years ago at Pharmacia (to start a new product PR department), but he is undecided on what his next career move will be. He remains calm by keeping his perspective on where he came from and what he holds sacred. Having grown up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, it seemed only natural that Winton would enter college as an animal science and agriculture major, aspiring to be a veterinarian. The major stuck (he graduated in 1980 with a degree in life sciences), but his career path shifted when he realized, "I liked healthy animals better than sick ones." He enrolled in communications classes, and became the prime candidate for Earl Palmer Brown upon graduation, which was looking for someone who knew animal health and agriculture (not easy to come by in Manhattan) because it had just won a piece of business from a new client - Pfizer. Impressed with Winton from the get-go, Pfizer asked that Fletcher/Mayo Associates consider hiring him when the company moved its business to the Kansas City, MO-based firm. "For someone in his 20s, it was very flattering for a company like Pfizer to compliment you like that," says Winton. In addition to healthcare accounts, he worked on the agency's National Pork Producers Council business. "The Other White Meat" campaign, still in use today, was born while Winton was part of the account team. Before continuing on his agency path, Winton got his first taste of corporate life when he became head of international PR for agriculture at American Cyanamid (now Wyeth) in 1986. He was later promoted to director of global marketing - the job that introduced him to human healthcare. In 1992, he left Wyeth to work as a VP at Lyons/Lavey/Nickel/Swift, which happened to be just across the street from Pfizer. He worked on Pfizer's business there until 1995, when he was asked to start an East Coast office for Osborn & Barr Communications. From there, Winton accepted a job at Hoffman-La Roche, where he was named director of public affairs for pharmaceuticals. He was hired to work primarily on Roche's AIDS efforts, which Winton pinpoints as one of the highlights of his career. "I am really an activist at heart, and the level to which I enjoyed working on the AIDS business is a true testament to that." "Jeff has a tremendous ability to intelligently identify opportunities in PR," says Wendy Lund, head of healthcare for MS&L's New York office. She first began doing client work for Winton while he was at Roche. "He also knows how to work with agencies as partners, and respects them to work on an equal level with his in-house team." In 1998, Winton was approached by Pharmacia, which had just moved its world headquarters to New Jersey, to build a new global PR department from scratch. Before his appointment, PR was being handled by corporate communications, but "as PR became such a critical tool in the marketing mix, they wanted a specialized team to concentrate just on the products," he explains. Winton reports to Ellen Geisel, SVP of customer communications. "I brought him in because we needed a bright light with enthusiasm, competence, and leadership skills," she says. Winton was her first hire. Together, they interviewed 1,000 candidates to find the 34 that make up his team today. "His ability to hire well is what has made Jeff so successful," says Geisel. "He champions people, and knows how to get the best from them. He could get blood from a stone." While Winton is hesitant to take credit for his department's successes, he admits that his team works very hard. "We often function as an in-house agency because we do so much of the media work ourselves," he says, which is apparent from the six Rolodexes on his desk, each filled with reporters' names. "Bittersweet" is how Winton refers to this time of dispersion for the department that he built. "It is difficult for me to see this team break apart," he says, "but I know they are going to be good ambassadors for how PR can be part of marketing. They will replicate all the great work they've done at Pharmacia someplace else." Some have already accepted positions at Pfizer. As for Winton, his qualifications and personality have lent him a wealth of options. He's considering the Pfizer job, but admits other industries are also appealing. Regardless of his decision, he'll surely make his mark. "I have a lot of my dad, who was a renegade Democrat, in me," shares Winton. "He felt the status quo was never good enough." ----- Jeffrey Winton 1998-present VP, global PR for Pharmacia 1997-1998 Director of public affairs, Roche Laboratories for Hoffman-La Roche 1995-1997 VP/managing director, East Coast for Osborn & Barr Communications 1992-1995 VP/account group supervisor for Lyons/Lavey/Nickel/Swift 1986-1992 Director of global marketing for American Cyanamid (now Wyeth) 1984-1986 AS for Fletcher/Mayo Associates 1980-1984 SAE for Earle Palmer Brown

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