After graduating with a BBA from Hofstra University, Mr. Larsen joined Johnson & Johnson in 1962. In 1981, he left Johnson & Johnson to serve as president of Becton Dickinson's consumer products division and returned to Johnson & Johnson in 1983 as president of its Chicopee subsidiary. In 1986, Mr. Larsen was named a company group chairman and later that year became vice chairman of the executive committee and chairman of the consumer sector. He was elected a director in 1987 and served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer from 1989 to 2002. Mr. Larsen is also a director of Xerox Corporation and a trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
During Larsen’s 13-year tenure as CEO, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J spent $21.7 billion to acquire more than 40 companies, building an enterprise that sold products as diverse as Band-Aid adhesive bandages, hip implants and drugs. He also reduced operating costs by $2 billion from 1994 to 1999, enabling J&J to compete more aggressively in the personal care market, according to his profile on Harvard Business School’s website. J&J’s market value was $196.9 billion when he retired in 2002, up from $14.7 billion when he took control in 1989.
He served in the U.S. Navy for two years starting in 1956, then studied business administration at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in 1962.
Larsen served as vice president of marketing at the company’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit in 1980 and 1981, when J&J expanded beyond doctors with its marketing campaign for Tylenol. The effort failed to net Larsen a position as president of McNeil, which he felt he deserved, according to the Times story. The fissure led Larsen to quit the company in 1981 and he moved to Becton Dickinson & Co., based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, where he served as president of consumer products.
He returned to J&J in 1983 as president of the Chicopee division, which made fabrics for bandages. He was named company vice chairman in 1986, and won the CEO job three years later.
He joined General Electric Co.’s board in 2002, soon after Jeffrey Immelt replaced Jack Welch as CEO, and became lead director, stepping down in 2014.
He married the former Dorothy Zeitfuss in 1961. The couple had three children: Karen, Kristen and Garret.more » « less