Bristol-Myers Squibb: The Road to Merger

With a bachelor’s degree he earned at the University of Washington, Thomas Spetter previously worked for business machine giant Pitney Bowes, Xerox, and Abbot Laboratories. In 2006, by which time he’d also earned his MBA from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Thomas Spetter joined the sales management team at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he currently serves as the regional key account manager in the market access division.

Bristol-Myers Squibb traces its roots to two separate enterprises established in the 19th century. A former Navy doctor known for tossing medicines overboard because of their poor quality, Dr. Edward Robinson Squibb founded a pharmaceutical lab in Brooklyn, New York, in 1858. Dedicated to making consistently pure formulations, he landed a contract to supply the Union Army during the Civil War

In 1887, William Bristol and John Myers purchased the foundering Clinton Pharmaceutical Company for $5,000. It continued to suffer financially until 1900, when it turned a profit for the first time, largely because of its most successful products, Sal Hepatica, a laxative mineral salt, and the toothpaste Ipana.

The two companies progressed along separate but similar paths throughout most of the 20th century. In 1938, Bristol-Myers, by then a publicly traded company, was profiting from its over-the-counter products like toiletries, antiseptics, hair tonic, and deodorant. Squibb, on the other hand, was expanding into pharmaceuticals, especially antibiotics. Within a few years, Bristol-Myers followed Squibb into antibiotics, primarily penicillin.

After World War II, both companies maintained their presence in the pharmaceutical industry, but both also continued to produce and sell consumer products such as Clairol hair coloring, baby formula, and electronic toothbrushes. Bristol-Myers even started a movie studio, Palomar Pictures, but disbanded it within a few years. Squibb developed an acclaimed anti-tubercular drug and entered the field of cancer research. By the 1970s, both firms were firmly established in the pharmaceutical business. When the two companies merged in 1989, they became the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical manufacturer.