May 2011: Kelly Martin, CEO, Elan

Business Person of the Month | Thu 2 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
Kelly Martin

The Wall Street alumnus driving success at the biotech firm since 2003.


Pharmaceutical giant Elan reported net profits of $68.2m for the first quarter of 2011, yet again proving itself as a consistent performer during a difficult time.

CEO Kelly Martin has been a key component to the company’s success since becoming CEO in February 2003, with the Dublin-based company continuing its remarkable upward trajectory in 2011.

The neuroscience-based biotechnology company has a plant in Athlone and a number of facilities in the US. Listed on the Dublin, London and New York stock exchanges, Élan focuses on developing, manufacturing and marketing advanced therapies in neurology, auto-immune diseases and severe pain.

The company, in which US firm Johnson & Johnson holds an 18% stake, reported that revenue growth for its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri was up 23%.

Unique time

Following the announcement of the impressive first quarter figures, Martin said: “The first quarter results provide further evidence as to our consistency in generating progress across all aspects of the business.

He continued, “This is a unique time for Elan and we remain focused on driving further operating leverage into our business.

“At the same time, we will continue to intelligently invest in both science and clinical activities that may differentiate Elan globally.”

Dublin HQ

Headquartered in Dublin, Élan has two business units: Élan Biopharmaceuticals and Élan Drug Technologies (EDT). Biopharmaceuticals engages in biopharmaceutical research and development activities, and pharmaceutical commercial activities.

EDT focuses on product development scale-up and manufacturing to address the drug-delivery challenges of the pharmaceutical industry.

“This improved operating performance principally reflects the continued growth of Tysabri and a 9% decrease in combined selling, general and administrative, and research and development expenses, compared to the first quarter of 2010, partially offset by a lower gross margin due to the loss of higher gross margins associated with the legacy products,” the company said in a statement.


Having graduated from Princeton with a degree in politics, Kelly Martin’s career up to that point had been spent with Wall Street bank Merrill Lynch, where he had held senior managerial positions but had no direct experience of the pharmaceutical trade or of working as a CEO. Martin was well equipped to lead a financial restructuring at Élan when he became CEO in 2003, with a job of turning around the company’s reputation following an accounting scandal. It was soon discovered his reputation as a trouble-shooter was not unfounded, (in 1998, he had managed to turn around Merrill Lynch’s Global Debt Markets Group which had lost $1.5 billion – it went on to post a profit of $1bn in 2001).

Stepping down

Last year, Martin announced that he will step down from the position in 2012. Elan said it had changed Martin’s contract from “an open-ended agreement to a fixed-term agreement”.

Following the announcement, the company said: “Elan’s board recognises the significant contribution Kelly has made to the company since 2003 and looks forward to the company benefiting from Kelly’s continued leadership and direction in the coming years.”

Upward trajectory

  • The company reported a strong start to 2011, with net profit up to $68.2m.
  • Key drug Tysabri improved its market share, and looks set to grow.

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Business & Finance, in association with MERC Partners, has been awarding excellence in business through the ‘Business Person of the Month’ award over the last number of years. These awards seek to recognise noteworthy achievements in business leadership, and particularly those that make a telling contribution to the wider business community in Ireland.