Peter Nicholas rang Wall Street’s closing bell on January 31, 2005—an honor that was a long time in the making. The occasion was recognition of the 25 year anniversary of Boston Scientific, the medical technology company he serves as chairman and that he co-founded with only 38 employees. The day he rang the bell, the company had more than 15,000 workers. A year later, the company grew again, through a hotly contested $28 billion acquisition of long-time competitor Guidant. The company finished 2006 with $948.7 million in revenue. “When we started, our goal was to become a major contributorfor solving problems in the health care field and I believe we have fulfilled this many times over,” he told Wharton Alumni Magazine earlier in 2006. Boston Scientific has catapulted to the medical technology forefront with an array of devices requiring minimally invasive surgery.
Riding this upward wave has been the life work of Nicholas. Prior to launching Boston Scientific, Nicholas became well-versed in the medical technology sector working with Eli Lilly & Company for a decade after completing his Wharton MBA and then as general manager for the Millipore Corporation. “Everything in life is a judgment call, and if you have been at this a number of years, you understand how things work — and this understanding helps to mitigate the risks,” he says. His insights led to the acquisitions of Medi-Tech in 1970 and Scimed Life Systems in 1995, among the many other companies that have come under Boston Scientific’s wing.
“Alignment is key,” says Nicholas, who attributes compatibility in business values and approach to life as vital for any potential business partnership. Over time, his company’s ability to select the right partners and a strength to dominate niches has resulted in a near-continuous 35 percent annual growth rate. More importantly, Nicholas says, “Our medical devices have helped move the needle toward earlier detection with cost-effective treatments that have resulted in a better quality of life.”