Brenton L. Saunders

Biography

What Brenton L. Saunders remembers most vividly from his semesters at the Fox School of Business is the late nights. While he pursued his MBA, Mr. Saunders worked for the Thomas Jefferson University Health System, initially in the law department and then in compliance. Upon graduation—Mr. Saunders earned both his MBA and JD from Temple University in 1996—he was appointed Thomas Jefferson’s Chief Compliance Officer. The promotion was the first significant stride in what would become a rapid, albeit nonlinear, ascent.

From the beginning, Mr. Saunders says that his professors at Fox stressed the importance of building a team and working well within it. The approach came as a revelation to Mr. Saunders. His undergraduate and JD coursework was largely an individual pursuit. To trust in others required an adjustment, but he considers it a turning point today. Ask him how he came to be chairman and CEO of Allergan, a publicly traded pharmaceutical company whose reach encompasses 18,000 employees in 100 countries, and he says that a lot of it can be traced back to the intangibles that Fox helped instill in him: work hard, manage your time, and surround yourself with smart, ambitious people. Mr. Saunders is standing at the forefront of a potential renaissance for the pharmaceutical industry. If the last 20 years are remembered for groundbreaking treatments, he says, the next 20 will produce the cures. For all the excitement, there’s also no small amount of uncertainty as to how exactly that could play out. First of all, the regulatory system is built upon prolonged treatments, not cures. Secondly, the cost of developing these drugs is quickly outpacing the mainstream market. In response, Mr. Saunders, in September 2016, published a “Social Contract with Patients,” in which he publicly condemned “aggressive” and “predatory” price increases and renewed his own commitment to accessibility. “The investment in research and development has to be balanced with how we make medicines affordable and accessible,” Mr. Saunders says. Balance is something that Mr. Saunders strives for both in his business and in his personal life. “We all work so hard,” he says, “so you have to figure out what you have a passion for, because we can only fully invest in two to three passions at a time.” He prioritized his work and family. It’s only now that his children are nearly grown that he’d qualify golf as another. Mr. Saunders’ demanding work schedule may keep him from naming Temple as another, but that shouldn’t imply that it doesn’t hold down a corner of his heart. Before there was Allergan, before there was Fox and Beasley, there was his grandfather, who earned his undergraduate degree at Temple University and introduced Mr. Saunders to the school. Because of that history alone, Mr. Saunders says, Temple will always remain “a place that’s very special to me.”

Temple University Degree
Juris Doctor ’96, Beasley School of Law; Master of Business Administration ’96, Fox School of Business

Title & Company
Chairman and CEO, Allergan

Temple University Awards & Affiliations
Gallery of Success Award

What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
A lawyer

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
“Don’t chase the paycheck. Every time I was faced with a major career decision, I prioritized where I could have the most impact, not where I’d make the most money.”