Open mouth insert foot

It seems like our friends at Medtronic were caught a little off guard by our post making public that Fran Kaufman had resigned as their Chief Medical Officer. A post she held since May 2009. Yesterday Hooman Hakami EVP and President of Medtronic’s Diabetes Group had this to say on HIS Facebook page;

“Last week, Dr. Fran Kaufman, our chief medical officer, announced that she is retiring from Medtronic at the end of the year. Fran is a world-renowned, extremely accomplished, and well-respected endocrinologist. Her contributions to the Diabetes Group are immense. Her personal passion is a primary reason why the hybrid closed-loop system exists for patients living with diabetes.

She is also one of the most giving and selfless people I’ve ever met. Fran’s advocacy and professional societal activities can only be matched by her philanthropic spirit. She has left an indelible mark in the global field of diabetes, which reflects her passion for serving patients and her strong desire to help the underserved. Whether it’s helping her patients at any time of the day, giving to the underserved in Haiti, supporting relief efforts in Puerto Rico, helping our teams in China design clinical trials, or even hitting the road to meet with our sales team and their customers, Fran is always there, ready to serve.

We wish Fran the very best in her future endeavors. We know she will continue to transform and impact the world of diabetes and lend her philanthropic spirit to making the world a better place.”

Nice words unfortunately not exactly accurate – first if this was a REAL retirement Medtronic would have issued a press release – if this was a REAL retirement why did they wait until yesterday to publicly acknowledge it and why only on Facebook late at night when few would even find it – if this was a REAL retirement none of Fran’s colleagues would express surprise at this news.

Medtronic may want to call this a retirement but here’s a big fat fact – FRAN RESIGNED. She did it last Thursday. Now anyone who knows anything about how these things work in corporate America knows that a CMO does not retire like this they do not resign on a Thursday or walk away from year end bonuses. While we don’t know exact version of events, we have a pretty good idea what happened.

Unhappy with how things were going Fran made her displeasure known yet her concerns fell on deaf ears. Being the smart person she is she saw the handwriting on the wall did not want to be set up as the fall guy and decided to resign before the company forced her to leave. The company realizing that Fran knows where all the dead bodies are buried went back to her asked her to “retire” instead promising to pay the year-end bonus and any other compensation she was due. Simply put they bought her silence.

At the last ADA conference Fran and I had a brief conversation and the subject of retirement was addressed. Given all she has accomplished her many interests I asked when she was going to hang it up and enjoy her grandchildren. While this is not an exact quote Fran was quite explicit that she would leave Medtronic on a stretcher and had no intention of retiring anytime in the near future.

As we noted yesterday diabetes may be a big business but it’s a very small community, even smaller for people of Fran’s stature. As we noted yesterday Fran may not be on the Mt Rushmore of diabetes greats but there is no question she belongs in the Diabetes Hall of Fame and this is a pretty exclusive club. While this club may exclusive like all clubs it’s not easy keeping things like this secret. Yet no one in the club knew that Fran was “retiring”.

Listen we may not be big fans of the West Coast Mafia or the JDRF and ADA but none of these people or organizations knew about this. So, either this was the best kept secret in diabetes or Medtronic is lying through their teeth. Caught in this lie they are now doing what they always do trying to divert attention away from what’s really happening attempting to put a positive spin on events. Kind of like telling the FDA that faulty reservoirs are responsible for patient deaths.

Let’s be crystal clear here so there in no room for doubt Medtronic may want to call this a retirement but nothing could be further from the truth. Fran resigned they got nervous and then bought her silence. The fact is Medtronic stepped in it and is now trying to put a positive spin on what really is nothing more than natural fertilizer. This is classic open mouth insert foot.