I wrote this morning's postfrom the Merck analyst meeting before sitting down for my exclusive interview with Exec Veep Ken Frazier. So, I had to pass along this fresh anecdote that illustrates even more how far this drug company and its people have come.
We were locked down for an 11:20 interview. There was little, if any, wiggle room to move the time, especially with the other breaking news today--i.e. the Illinois Governor. The problem was that the execs were still in the middle of their first q and a session with analysts at 11:17ish and counting. I was getting antsy. There's precious little time for live interviews--especially on my beat lately, since financials and autos take priority these days. If Frazier were late, our on-air time would get squeezed or cut. A PR person pulled Frazier out of the room and got him in the hot seat with about a minute or two to spare.
I'd interviewed him a few times via remote when he was General Counsel during the Vioxx litigation, but this was our first face-to-face, one-on-one chat. And in the seconds leading up to the live shot, Frazier leans forward and makes the most disarming comment. "Mike, remember this is no-holds barred, okay?" Uh, excuse me? In 26 years of reporting, I've never had anyone I was about to interview say that.
And I don't know anyone in the news business who ever got that. Oftentimes, live interview subjects--yes, including CEOs--are uptight, a little nervous and want an idea about what I'm about to ask them. Ken was smooth as silk, handled it like a pro. But that's where the kudos stop. Frazier and Merck Chairman and CEO Dick Clark are both Penn State grads and I'm told Clark is as big a fan of the Nittany Lions as I am of the Trojans. You want no-holds barred? See you at the Rose Bowl. Beat JoePa!
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