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Sigma-Aldrich CEO Dies Unexpectedly

Business: Passing of Jai Nagarkatti leads to management shifts at the research chemical firm

by Ann M. Thayer
November 15, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 47

Credit: Sigma-Aldrich
Credit: Sigma-Aldrich

Jai P. Nagarkatti, chairman, president, and CEO of Sigma-Aldrich died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The 63-year-old executive had spent his entire career with the company, which he joined in 1976. After holding positions in R&D, manufacturing, operations, and sales and marketing, he was named president and chief operating officer in 2004. In 2006, he became CEO, and in 2009, chairman.

Under Nagarkatti's leadership, Sigma-Aldrich grew to have sales of $2.15 billion in 2009. He was instrumental in expanding the company's core research products business and building significant new efforts in the areas of the life sciences, fine chemicals, and high-tech materials. His intent for 2010 was to continue to drive the company's growth at above-market levels through initiatives in new technologies, e-commerce, and international business.

"He was a leader who led by example and has left the company in good shape," said Barrett Toan, Sigma-Aldrich's presiding director who has been named chairman, in a conference call with stock analysts. "We will remember him fondly as we focus on doing what I believe he would want us to do—look ahead and deliver on the goals he launched as a fitting tribute to his many years of exemplary service to our company."

Credit: Sigma-Aldrich
Credit: Sigma-Aldrich

Although Nagarkatti's passing was sudden and unexpected, Sigma-Aldrich's board of directors had been working for the past 18 months on a succession plan for key company officers that considered both internal and external candidates. Acting on its nearly complete plan, the board immediately named Chief Financial Officer Rakesh Sachdev, 54, as president and CEO. Sigma-Aldrich Vice President and Treasurer Kirk Richter has been named interim CFO.

Since joining Sigma-Aldrich in November 2008, Sachdev also has had responsibility for the company's international and electronic business operations. Holding graduate degrees in both business and engineering, he told stock analysts that he intends to follow the five-year strategic growth plan already under way that draws on the company's scientific and business strengths.

The strategy "focuses on expansion of our product offerings in analytical chemistry, biology, and materials science; expanding our business in faster growing markets of Asia and Latin America; and elevating our e-commerce platform to the next level," Sachdev explained. "Jai and his predecessors created a strong, vibrant organization with unrivaled breadth of products and excellence in customer service, and I am honored to be able to lead Sigma-Aldrich to future success."



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