Three factors that drove the transformational integration of AbbVie, Allergan

Here’s how we brought together two diverse businesses and groups of people to build a new, stronger company

By Richard A. Gonzalez, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

On May 8, 2020, the new AbbVie was created.

That day, AbbVie officially closed its $63-billion acquisition of Allergan to create a larger, stronger and more diversified global biopharmaceutical company. It was an acquisition that allowed us to grow in numbers and bolster our ability to improve people’s lives worldwide.

While there was a clear business strategy for the decision to acquire Allergan and diversify our business, questions remained around how we would successfully integrate two very successful yet different businesses. Ultimately, what we learned together was the importance of executing a carefully crafted integration plan and why, above all else, employee buy-in was one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.

Now, more than two years later, the new AbbVie is a fully integrated, more diverse company and the strategic merits of the acquisition have never been clearer. Together, we have developed a more robust and diversified portfolio and expanded our research and development into new therapeutic areas to help even more patients for years to come.

I have been in the pharmaceutical business for 40 years, and the AbbVie acquisition of Allergan was the largest acquisition I have overseen and one of the most significant in our industry. I am tremendously proud of AbbVie’s leadership team and thousands of colleagues who worked tirelessly on the integration of these two powerful companies, even as we navigated the complex challenges of a global pandemic.

Here are the three critical factors that drove the success of this transformational acquisition.

1. A shared purpose is critical to bringing our distinct companies together

Prior to the acquisition, AbbVie and Allergan had different areas of focus. AbbVie focused more on therapeutics in immunology, hematologic oncology and other specialty areas, while Allergan focused on aesthetics, eye care, women’s health and neuroscience. This made our companies – from a portfolio perspective – very different. It was important that our employees understand the long-term vision of bringing these two diverse companies together to create something powerful for patients.

This was the first and perhaps most crucial step to ensuring a successful integration. We could not just rely on our leadership teams knowing that this acquisition would be transformative – our thousands of employees, across both companies, had to believe it too.

What we found is that like AbbVie employees, Allergan colleagues shared a deep commitment to making a remarkable impact on people’s lives. This shared purpose – in addition to a tremendous amount of teamwork across all areas of both organizations – was the glue that brought our distinct companies together and what made this transaction so compelling.

In the end, all the careful strategic planning from our combined teams was worth it. We brought together 30 brands, established strong product leadership positions in important markets, and expanded our therapeutic areas to drive long-term growth.

With the acquisition of Allergan, we expanded our therapeutic areas, adding aesthetics, eye care and neuroscience to AbbVie's already established immunology and hematologic oncology franchises.

2. Innovation and science drive our long-term strategy

Since AbbVie’s inception in 2013, our pipeline has been the lifeblood of our company and is the engine that has always driven our business as a promise to the patients of today and tomorrow.

The AbbVie-Allergan integration was a critical next step in the evolution of that pipeline. In fact, since the close of our acquisition, our quest to innovate has not slowed, even as the world grappled with COVID-19. If anything, the pandemic has cemented the importance of pushing science and innovation forward.

Discovering and developing new medicines is certainly not easy, but our pursuit of science and innovation has been, and will always be, the impetus for AbbVie’s existence. To date, we have invested more than $50 billion in research and development to help deliver new, world-class medicines to patients around the world. And with our enhanced scale and product diversity, we won’t stop there.

Operating with clear and consistent foundational priorities – ones that employees, stakeholders and the market deeply understand and support – is the first step to lasting impact and long-term business success. Remain laser-focused on that purpose internally and continuously execute against strategic priorities that support it.

3. Our strong culture is fundamental to our success

Sometimes, when two large companies come together, there can be a culture clash – and companies cannot underestimate culture’s influence on the combined company’s success. Fortunately, because of our shared purpose, our cultures and our people were already deeply aligned.

Integrating two large companies is no small feat, but the most important endeavor throughout the process was our people. We worked hard to ensure our team members – whether from AbbVie or Allergan – not only understood our mission and values, but also came to work each day feeling inspired by a larger, deeply important purpose.

Today, we have more than 50,000 dedicated employees located all over the world. Employees from both companies have come together, drawing from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, to explore new ways of thinking, support each other’s ideas and double down on our shared mission to support our patients and communities.

Let me give you just one example. Since our inception as a company, AbbVie’s spirit of giving back has been fundamental to our identity and is something that makes our company truly unique. This summer, we held our seventh global week of volunteering, which we call our Week of Possibilities. Not only was it our first event in two years because of the pandemic, but it was also our first with our Allergan colleagues, who jumped right in to work side by side with their legacy AbbVie colleagues.

Today, as we approach our tenth year as an independent company, I am so proud of the new AbbVie we have built. Fueled by our collective strengths and a relentless focus on helping people live better lives, I am confident that AbbVie is positioned for long-term success.


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