Profiles

Jim Newman

MBA 83

Chairman, Victory Pharma

"Every single person, every student, has a wonderful story."

Jim Newman is the kind of alumnus that GGU is known for, and is very proud to have enrolled. An academic "late bloomer", Newman chose enlistment in the Navy after two attempts at a college career at the University of Wisconsin. Upon return four years later, Newman focused on settling down: he married his wife Lynne and attempted to return to a collegiate education thanks to the GI Bill.

Getting back into school was not easy for the two-time drop-out. It took a face-to-face meeting with the dean of students at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle to overcome his prior record at Wisconsin. Admission wasn’t granted until a phone call from that same dean on the eve of registration. Jim Newman met the challenge. Through two years of heavy-duty course loads and holding down a job as janitor for an apartment building, Jim graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Accounting. In 1970, Jim and Lynne decided to head west toward the Golden Gate.

After being hired at Haskins and Sells, Jim enrolled in the special CPA-prep course that Deloitte had lined up with Golden Gate University. "If I hadn’t had the taxation and business law and Dean Kahn’s exams, I wouldn’t have scraped through.” With the CPA in hand, he began the MBA program, seeing the benefits of GGU’s workforce focus. After completing his MBA coursework (nine night courses in two years), he began teaching as one of GGU’s adjunct faculty — the practitioner who truly delivers on the still-unique GGU mission.

His instinct to excel in teaching led to further education and a significant personal realization that still has deep meaning for him. “Some of my most enjoyable times were teaching at Golden Gate. I can remember some of the students even now. After I took the Dale Carnegie course, when students filled out the teaching evaluations, I jumped an entire point–from a three to a four.”

In 1976, Jim, and his family moved to Los Angeles when he took a new job as controller in the oil industry at BJ Hughes, an oil-field equipment and services company. Jim’s understanding of accounting and manufacturing blossomed during the next three years, which, in 1979, led to a position as the corporate controller at Hydril Company in Los Angeles. Midway through 1982, Hydril’s net earnings year-to-date dipped into the red, and downsizing became priority. As controller, Jim oversaw a company-wide operating cost-reduction program that resulted in pretax savings of $50 million per year and an additional inventory cost study that resulted in a $15 million tax refund. He became one of the casualties of his own philosophy, eventually telling the company’s president: “I cut the company down to the proper size, now it’s time for me to go.”

After three short-lived CFO jobs, Jim ended up finding out about a pharmaceutical job, which came courtesy of his daughter’s allergist, that ultimately turned into an offer to become CFO at Dura Pharmaceuticals in San Diego. It was a fiery start. During his first week, Dura launched its plan to go public to raise the funds needed to expand the sales force and acquire products to grow the company. If that weren’t challenging enough, the company’s controller suddenly quit, miffed over not being appointed CFO. It was 1992 and Jim was new to the industry, in a new job at a new company that was trying to go public without a controller. Still, in a few years, Dura became profitable and grew into a sizable “specialty pharma” company with a large sales force and a promising development pipeline.

Nearly six years after Dura weathered its initial storm, it hit an earnings problem in 1998. Jim became the CEO of an independent spin-off company; he found himself on his own at the top of DJ Pharma. Through hard work and a little serendipity, Jim was able to sell the company for a 500 percent return in a fourteen-month term at a time when the dot coms were crumbling. Jim left the company shortly after it was sold, and after his two-year non-compete agreement expired, Jim was at it again with his two former colleagues from DJ. The new specialty pharma was called Victory Pharma.

Victory focused on FDA-approved prescription-pain products and promoted them to orthopedists, rheumatologists, and other prescribers of pain medications. Victory Pharma has grown to almost $100 million in sales and expects to realize a profit of $17 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization in 2009.

Jim has some advice for Golden Gate as the university reinvests itself through creating a strategic plan for the coming decade: “It is almost as if you need an entrepreneur at the university who can act quickly enough to the changing situations. In my small companies, we operate alongside the larger pharma
business,” which he likens to big elephants just plodding along. “We are just this small mouse running in-between them and picking up the grain. We don’t need a lot of grain, but the elephants need a ton. We’ll take the leftovers. You just have to be quick. I think Golden Gate has a better chance of stepping in and solving the needs than Berkeley or Stanford. I believe it is unlikely the large institutions can, want to, or maybe even should change rapidly."