Picker’s Nolan to step down amid time of change at company

Vendor also announces formation of new business unitsPicker International announced last week that Cary Nolan is retiring as president and CEO of the Cleveland vendor. The news surprised the radiology community, as Nolan had been the

Vendor also announces formation of new business units

Picker International announced last week that Cary Nolan is retiring as president and CEO of the Cleveland vendor. The news surprised the radiology community, as Nolan had been the longest-serving chief executive at a multimodality imaging firm.

Nolan’s last day in the office was April 8, with his departure roughly corresponding to the end of the company’s fiscal year, March 31. Nolan will serve as a consultant to Picker for the next several months, according to Picker spokesperson Rob Spademan.

Replacing Nolan on an interim basis is Michael Donovan, an executive with Picker’s parent firm, General Electric Company of the U.K. Donovan heads GEC’s Marconi Systems unit, which includes Picker as well as several other U.S. companies. Donovan is based in Washington, DC, and plans to spend two days a week in the Cleveland office. Picker hopes to have a permanent replacement for Nolan hired by this summer, Spademan said.

Nolan was hired by Picker 10 years ago, and has served as president and CEO for his entire tenure with the vendor. He came to the company from Xerox Medical Systems, which had marketed xeromammography breast screening systems until Xerox decided to exit the medical business in 1988 (SCAN 9/27/89). Nolan was responsible for shutting down Xerox’s medical operation.

During Nolan’s tenure, Picker more than doubled in size. The company reported sales of $1.1 billion for fiscal 1997, the most recent year for which financial results are available. Picker expects to post record-setting results for fiscal 1998, although those results are not yet in.

Although Picker under Nolan’s leadership was not able to unseat GE or Siemens at the top spot of any of the major imaging modalities, the company has carved out successful niches in several areas. The firm is well-known for its prowess in multivendor service, and has made major investments in this area. It has also been very aggressive in expanding its Picker Health Care Products distribution arm, buying a number of distributors in the last several years. Outside the distribution realm, one of the company’s largest acquisitions came late last year, when it bought Elscint’s CT business (SCAN 12/16/98).

Nolan’s departure comes at a time when GEC and Picker have been surrounded by a web of rumor and intrigue. GEC’s future plans have been under scrutiny since the company announced earlier this year that it plans to sell its Marconi Electronic Systems defense business to British Aerospace (SCAN 2/3/99). The deal will bring GEC a windfall of some $4.5 billion in cash, which the company plans to use to make additional acquisitions.

GEC has said that it plans to add to its portfolio in the telecommunications and medical imaging industries, and the company has been linked to a half-dozen potential acquisition candidates in the radiology market, including Siemens and Philips. Most of GEC’s deals so far have been in the telecommunications market, however. The company last month announced that it will acquire Cleveland networking company Reltec for $2.1 billion (SCAN 3/17/99). GEC was also mentioned as a potential buyer for several other telecommunications companies in newspaper reports last week.

Given all this activity, conspiracy theorists might speculate that Nolan’s departure is related to pending changes at Picker. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Spademan. Nolan, who is 56, had been planning to retire for some time and had been in discussions with GEC’s board about a smooth transition.

“He told me that he has been thinking about this since last summer,” Spademan said. “Ten years at the helm is enough. He can afford to retire, and is in good health. There are no undertones here.”

Concurrent with Nolan’s departure, Picker announced that it has created a new business unit, Picker Medical Systems, that will combine its equipment, sales, and service operations into a single entity. Previously, these divisions were operated separately, with different chief executives and lines of reporting. The structure had created some confusion among Picker customers, who sometimes felt that they were dealing with multiple companies, Spademan said. Long-time Picker executive Timothy Hansen has been named president of PMS.

The company’s multivendor service unit, Picker Technology Services, will continue to operate as an independent business, but will report to PMS, Spademan said. Picker is unsure at this time whether the creation of PMS will result in work-force reductions. The formation of PMS is unrelated to Nolan’s departure, according to Spademan.

Finally, Picker also announced the formation of a new HealthCare Information Systems group, under Hansen’s direction. The HCIS business will be aimed at helping customers improve their operations through information technology and will incorporate Picker’s PACS operations.