Daniel Vasella

Physician Turned Global CEO

Heading a multinational drug firm is a high-wire act. When you aren't struggling to satisfy investors, you're justifying the high cost of your products to consumers. Daniel Vasella, CEO of the Swiss company Novartis, seems to pull off the act effortlessly. Urbane, understated and uncommonly charming, Vasella--a physician by training--speaks three languages fluently and flits easily among the varied social and commercial cultures in which his company operates. He's Swiss and proud of it, but his business sense is quintessentially American.

Vasella, 50, says his first responsibility is to his investors. But in an industry that has plenty of critics, he...

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