WSJ News Exclusive | Eye-Care Company Bausch + Lomb Names Brent Saunders CEO

Eye-care company Bausch + Lomb Corp. named

Brent Saunders

as chief executive officer and chairman of its board. 

Mr. Saunders will succeed

Joseph Papa,

who had said last July that he would step down from his roles running the company and serving on its board. Bausch + Lomb announced the leadership change Wednesday.

Under the plans, Mr. Saunders will take the helm of the company on March 6, after serving in an advisory role starting Thursday to help with the transition.

“There is a strong need in the marketplace for an integrated eye-care company, and Bausch + Lomb has all the attributes to build on,” Mr. Saunders said.

The move will begin Mr. Saunders’s second stint leading Bausch + Lomb, which he ran from 2010 to 2013 before its sale to

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International

BHC 2.87%

for $8.7 billion in 2013. 

Bausch + Lomb is in the process of being spun out of a larger healthcare firm,

Bausch Health

BHC 2.87%

Cos., which was fashioned out of Valeant.

Mr. Saunders described his return to Bausch + Lomb as “like going home again.”

In his new role, Mr. Saunders will take charge of one of the significant names in eye care, serving a multibillion-dollar market that has been growing rapidly.

The worldwide market for prescription eye drugs alone exceeds $33 billion and is increasing more than 7% annually, according to Grand View Research.

Mr. Saunders will have to steer Bausch + Lomb as it navigates competition from big rivals such as

Alcon Inc.

and Johnson & Johnson, as well as generic drugmakers.

Last May, Bausch + Lomb raised $630 million in an IPO, short of its expectations, though it took place during a turbulent time for the stock market.

Bausch + Lomb has “had its ups and downs, and I think there’s a real opportunity to restore it to its rightful place in leadership in eye health,” Mr. Saunders said.

He said that an experimental dry-eye treatment under review by U.S. regulators could be approved this year and would be a key launch for the company. Bausch + Lomb has said it expects to launch at least 15 products this year.

Founded in 1853, Bausch + Lomb introduced Ray-Ban sunglasses and brought to market the first mass-produced soft contact lens and among the first contact-lens solutions.

Today, it sells a variety of eye-care products, including surgery devices, contact lenses and eye drops. It also sells prescription drugs such as the glaucoma treatment Vyzulta. 

The Vaughan, Ontario, company reported sales of $2.8 billion through the first nine months of 2022. Roughly half of the sales came from outside the U.S. The company has more than 12,000 employees.

Mr. Saunders, 53 years old, has served as chairman of

Beauty Health Co.

since May 2021. He said he would keep that role. The Long Beach, Calif., company sells a delivery device for skin and hair treatments. 

Before then, he had held leadership roles at several large pharmaceutical companies and was known for his deal making. He ran Allergan, which sold Botox as well as eye products, before it was acquired by

AbbVie Inc.

in 2020 for $63 billion.   

Mr. Saunders said an executive search firm approached him late last year about taking charge of Bausch + Lomb.

“When I got the call on this, I said, ‘Gosh, I have a real warm spot in my heart for Bausch + Lomb,’” Mr. Saunders recalled, and he agreed to talk with board members to discuss a return.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at [email protected]

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