Richard L. Gelb
Blessed with love for his family and compassion for other people, Richard Gelb stood out from other business leaders as being one with a big heart.
Even when he had a choice, Gelb decided to help out in the family business rather than work in bigger, multinational companies where he was very much qualified.
When his family’s company was bought by Bristol-Myers, he exemplified his skills in being an effective business leader by growing it to become a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical and health products company.
He further made his mark in the health industry when Bristol-Myers, under his leadership, introduced cancer drugs to fight the killer disease.
Richard L. Gelb – Growing the Family Business
Born in 1924 in New York, Richard Gelb was the eldest son of chemist Lawrence M. Gelb and Joan Clair. Gelb was raised in the period of America’s Depression when everyone was struggling to survive. To support his family, Gelb’s father journeyed to France and brought home, with the guidance of his wife, a product he thought he could sell in America.
The product was hair dye, which became the foundation of Gelb’s family business, Clairol (so named after Joan’s professional name). The company flourished well enough that the Gelbs were able to send their sons to Yale and Harvard.
At Yale, Gelb first took up Chemical Engineering and then switched to studying Economics. At Harvard Business School, Gelb learned about advertising, manufacturing, and finance – all the things that later on proved to be highly essential in Gelb’s career. After Gelb finished school, he went back to his roots and joined the family business.
With Gelb helping out in the company, Clairol grew bigger with the launch of successful products such as home-use hair dye. Giant pharmaceutical and health products company, Bristol-Myers, took notice of Clairol’s potential and eventually bought it in 1959.
Gelb remained as president at Clairol and became a director at Bristol-Myers in 1960. Gelb then rose to become Bristol-Myers’ CEO in 1972. During his term, Gelb was able to grow Bristol-Myers’ sales to more than $11.4 billion before he retired in 1995.
The Richard L. Gelb Quick Bio
Full Name: Richard L. Gelb
Birthplace: New York
Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Key success traits: family-oriented, educated, hard-working, a compassionate leader
Among the most notable contributions, Gelb ever made in the pharmaceutical industry was Bristol-Myers Squibb’s introduction of its cancer drugs. Incidentally, Gelb was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1986, the disease to which he succumbed on April 4, 2004.