John Fletcher of Fletcher Spaght accepts the NACD 2018 Director of the Year Award
Erin Essenmacher – We are gonna move on now to our Director of the Year awards, and to introduce our first honoree, I’d like to bring to the stage Scott Drake. Scott is the President and CEO of ViewRay, he’s the chair of AtriCure, and he’s the Director of Zayo Holdings. Scott?
Scott Drake – Good evening. As has been referenced a couple of times this evening, our public discourse and media intensive culture are a bit noisy to me. There seems to be a vacuum of leadership greatness and a real longing for more true ladies and gentlemen. Well, this evening I have the pleasure to introduce an NACD Director of the Year, who is both a great leader and a gentlemen in the highest aspiration of the word. John Fletcher was the chairman of Spectranetics and hired me to be CEO. Prior to my tenure, John was a steadfast director of the company through the growth phase, and led us through some customary, and even not so customary, ups and downs typical of small and mid-cap companies. The depth of his character and thinking led to a quiet confidence and steadiness that we all felt. This bearing earned him the nickname of being our rock, in fact, our team, at one point, chipped in to buy him a piece of crystal shaped like a rock to commemorate our feelings and honor his service and serve, he did. Of course, he very ably chaired our board, and was an active and expert committee member of literally every committee over time, but John’s service was felt so far beyond our board room. He was in the meeting room when our senior team defined our mission. He spoke and engaged at our global sales meetings and president’s clubs. The cherry on top was when his wife, Caroline, could join us. He traveled in the field with sales reps to visit customers, attended key trade shows and investor conferences. Unique for a chairman, I think. And he did so many other things that very few knew or even know about. One memorable time, our stock took a hit. John knew I was feeling terrible and showed up at a conference to meet with me. He was compassionate. He was understanding and empathetic. Even more, he walked through how compelling our strategy was, affirmed the strength of our team, and shared his confidence in our path to significant shareholder value creation. My little pity party as of that meeting was over. I was reinvigorated and grateful. You see, John not only made me better at my job, he made me want to be a better person. His love and devotion to his family are inspiring. His wife, Caroline, his daughters, Kristen and Leah, his sons-in-law and grandchildren are truly the center of his life. “Family first,” is one of his favorite sayings. John-isms, as I called them, helped chart our course. At one point, we were debating the merits of a company changing acquisition. The management team was convicted. the board challenged and improved our thinking. John facilitated the discussion, and then added his set of questions. Always questions. To him, wisdom isn’t necessarily always having the right answer, but hopefully, most of the time, having the right questions. Regarding that deal, another John-ism, he shared that in order to do a back flip, you first have to believe you can do one. To him, the answer lied in the team’s confidence. Well, he guided us through that back flip and a number of forward rolls, and, under his guidance, the company grew from a micro-cap to a multi-billion dollar acquisition. Everyone: board, management, patients, customers and shareholders are so much better off for his service. I respect him as a chairman, I admire him as a mentor, I appreciate him as a friend, and I love him like a brother. Ladies and gentlemen, NACD Director Of The Year, John Fletcher.
Patrick Nettles, PhD – What impresses me about John is his focus, thoughtfulness, ability to listen, and clear communications of his own ideas. That’s a great combination.
Kristine Johnson – John’s the kind of leader that, I would say, brings out the best in people.
Maria Sainz – He is someone that is committed to really serving and puts the benefit of others and the value of creation of the company first.
Rohan F. Hastie, PhD – As a first time CEO, having John as the chairman of my board has been tremendously invaluable for me. My organization is an organization in transition, and we are going through the process of changing out quite a number of our board members. Needless to say, that’s an exceedingly sensitive process to run through. John’s ability to do that with sensitivity, taking into account the dignity of everybody involved and making it a win-win for those board members that leave our organization, that’s a testament to how he is as an individual.
Joseph Ruggio, MD – The Spectranetics board of directors, I think it’s safe to say was a bit dysfunctional.
William Jennings – They had some regulatory issues. They had some managerial issues.
Joseph Ruggio, MD – We needed a level-headed person. John came along at exactly the right time.
William Jennings – John was chairman of the board at the time that we considered, and ultimately did, the sale of the company.
Kristine Johnson – The sales process occurred over a fairly extended time, and actually there were several points in the process where we felt it simply wasn’t in the best interest of our shareholders to go ahead with the sale. Those were difficult times because at the beginning, it was clear that individual board members had a somewhat different view of the price at which a sale would be appropriate.
Joseph Ruggio, MD – John did a wonderful job in working with each and every one of the board members, making sure that we’re focused on what’s best for the company, what’s best for the Spectranetics shareholders.
William Jennings – John’s way of pulling people together is really unbelievable. All of us are friends today, and I don’t actually remember any discourse that was at all negative.
Joseph Helble – He makes it seem natural, but it’s a real talent and a real skill to take a diverse group of talented people together and then ask them to discuss and debate the pros and cons of different approaches and then eventually bring it to consensus. John’s made the engineering masters program, the MEM program stronger in so many different ways. The MEM program and the MEM corporate collaborative counsel would not be what they are today without John’s input and leadership these past 15 years, of that, I am absolutely certain.
Patrick Nettles, PhD – We had a very difficult period at Axcelis, where there was a real conflict with our Japanese partner, and then we had an activist investor who wanted to help. That really led to a very difficult set of decisions.
Joseph Keithley – John saw what we were doing, and believed in it, believed in the people who were doing it and reminded us of who we are. He has kept us on an even keel.
Maria Sainz – He is an incredible professional and a phenomenal leader in board service.
Patrick Nettles, PhD – Director of the year is something that is hard to articulate in terms of requirements or qualifications, but when you meet one, you know one. John is a director that’s worthy of note. I can’t think of a better person to be selected.
Kristine Johnson – He’s accomplished an incredible amount over his career, but what people will remember is his generosity of spirit, his deep caring. He is truly a thoughtful and kind man.
Joseph Keithley – It’s been a real privilege and pleasure for me to work with John. He’s truly not just an outstanding leader, but an outstanding human being, and I am thrilled to see him recognized in this way.
William Jennings – There’s nobody out there, I think, that could better represent Director of the Year for NACD.
[Announcer] – NACD Director of the Year, John Fletcher.
Scott Drake – Crazy part is, he is really that good. Ladies and gentlemen, John Fletcher.
John Fletcher – I’d like to do this again sometime. It’s pretty nice. Thank you, Scott Drake. I’ll always be grateful to have worked with you. You are a world-class CEO, a truly gifted leader, an excellent executive, and a very good guy. Thank you, Scott. Ladies and gentlemen, it is definitely an honor to be here. It is a great feeling to be among so many excellent directors. I’d like to congratulate Ms. Strandjord, fellow Director of the Year, Mr. Cunningham, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and the Hall of Fame Admissions, Ms. King and General Shelton and each of the top 100 Directors of the Year. I believe business is a team effort. I accept this award solely on the basis of the outstanding success achieved by those directors and management teams with whom I’ve worked, both at Spectranetics and Axcelis. In 2008 and 2009, Spectranetics’s future was in doubt, and in 2010, I was elected chairman with fellow director, Dr. Joseph Rusio’s steadfast assistance and wise counsel, we reconstituted the board with excellent industry executives, Maria Saints, Dan Pilak, Bill Jennings, Todd Shermahorn, and Ms. Chris Johnson, one of the 100 Directors of the Year tonight. By 2011, we had reconstituted Spectranetics management team, led by CEO, Scott Drake, you’ve heard speak and Chief Operating Officer, Sharma Ten, and those gentlemen were assisted by many other star performers too numerous to mention but deserve respect and praise for their contributions. During the ensuing six years, until it’s acquisition by Phillips in 2017, Spectranetics grew two to three times the rate of its market and increased its enterprise value from 200 million to 2.2 billion. Even more important, Spectranetics successful growth meant that it’s medical devices were saving the lives and limbs of nearly 100,000 patients each year in the US and around the world. Like Spectranetics, Axcelis endured a period when it struggled to survive. During bleak years, CEO Mary Puma and an excellent management team persisted to rationalize the business and create the resources to invest aggressively to accelerate development of a competitively advantaged technology. In recent years, Axcelis, with it’s new technology, has doubled its revenues and quadrupled its market share. The turnarounds of Axcelis and Spectranetics informed those of us who serve as directors we know that it’s always vital to attract excellence to our corporate boards and management teams, but success requires individuals who also possess the capacity for teamwork. For directors, this means we need boards that can collaboratively and productively work together toward common goals, boards with the courage to undertake major change when it is necessary and boards that can collectively muster the commitment to persevere until those desired results are achieved. I whole-heartedly share this award with my fellow directors and the talented executives at Spectranetics and Axcelis, as well as the other corporate and philanthropic boards of which I have been fortunate to serve. I also share this honor with my family. The deepest gratitude and love for my wife, Caroline, and my daughters, Leah and Kristen, who have joined me tonight. To the leadership of NACDC, I convey my appreciation for all you do, to promote the noble mission of elevating board performance. And to every director here, I believe that your presence reflects our commitment to good corporate governance, and it is a privilege and a pleasure to be with you tonight. Thank you.