Change is hard. John Culligan saw a company that made poisons and food as well as drugs, and he said, "hey, how about if we make drugs only?" Nice job, John.
By JENNIFER BAYOT
John W. Culligan, who rose from the mailroom to serve as the chief executive of the American Home Products Corporation, maker of familiar medications like Advil, Anacin and Preparation H, died on Dec. 11 at his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J. He was 88.
The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, said a daughter, Nancy C. Jennings.
Mr. Culligan helped American Home begin its transformation from a holding company of unrelated consumer products, like Chef Boyardee and Black Flag ant killer, to primarily a drug maker. The company is now known as Wyeth.
During his tenure as chairman and chief executive, from 1981 to 1986, American Home Products acquired Ives Laboratories and Sherwood Medical and began divesting itself of product lines that were unrelated to medicine.
Previously the company's president for eight years, Mr. Culligan oversaw Advil's conversion in 1984 from a prescription drug to the first over-the-counter ibuprofen medication in the United States.
John William Culligan was born in Newark on Nov. 22, 1916, and joined the mailroom of American Home Products in 1937.
After serving with the United States Army during World War II, he returned to American Home Products and remained there until his retirement in 1986. During the 1960's, he was president and chief operating officer of Whitehall Laboratories, a pharmaceutical division.
Mr. Culligan is survived by three daughters, Nancy C. Jennings, of Fort Washington, Pa., Mary Carol Cannon, of Manhattan, and Elizabeth R. Culligan, of Spring Lake, N.J.; two sons, John J., of Franklin Lakes, N.J., and Neil W., of Newtown, Conn.; and 13 grandchildren. His wife, Rita M. Culligan, died in 1993, and a daughter, Sheila Culligan Kearns, died in 1988.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company