Novartis appoints Willi to lead communications

Novartis has named former UBS comms chief Michael Willi group head of communications.

BASEL, SWITZERLAND: Novartis has appointed former UBS communications chief Michael Willi as group head of communications, effective June 1.

Reporting to CEO Joseph Jimenez, Willi will oversee the pharmaceutical company’s worldwide communications function, which includes brand and reputation management, corporate communications, and product communications. He will be based in Basel, Swizerland, according to a company statement.

Willi will replace Michele Galen, who has led communications for Novartis since 2012. Galen has decided to return to the US for family reasons, a company spokesperson said. She will remain in Basel through July to assist Willi with the transition.

Prior to joining Novartis, Willi served as CCO of UBS for more than four years, overseeing a team of 250 people and a budget of about $268.17 million, according to Reuters. Willi stepped down from the role in 2013 after spending more than 20 years at the Swiss bank.

"We're looking forward to [Willi] coming on board to really take the communications department to the next level," said Novartis global media relations head Eric Althoff. "The company is also very thankful to Michele Galen for what she's accomplished over the past few years."

Willi was not immediately available for comment.

Last month, Novartis announced that it would acquire GlaxoSmithKline’s oncology products for as much as $16 billion, while selling its vaccines, excluding the flu business, to GSK for $7.1 billion. Novartis told PRWeek it will set up an "integration office" to aid in the asset exchange.

The two pharmaceutical companies also plan to form a joint venture in consumer healthcare, where GSK retains majority control with an equity interest of 63.5% and Novartis has a 36.5% share.

Novartis also agreed last month to sell its animal health division to Eli Lilly & Company for about $5.4 billion.

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