Medtronic, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Medtronic, Inc.

7000 Central Avenue, N.E.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55432-3576

Company Perspectives:

To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

History of Medtronic, Inc.

Medtronic, Inc. is the world's leading medical technology company, controlling about 50 percent of the $4 billion global heart-pacing market, which includes pacemakers and defibrillators. The company's products and services also include implantable neurological pain, tremor, spasticity, and incontinence management systems; heart valves; catheters and stents for angioplasty; implantable drug administration systems; surgical instruments; hydrocephalic shunts; autotransfusion equipment; and disposable devices for handling and monitoring blood during surgery. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the company conducts business in more than 120 countries and groups its operations into three regions--the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Asia/Pacific.

Early History

Medtronic was founded as an outgrowth of Earl Bakken's part-time work at Minneapolis's Northwestern Hospital. Although much of his time was consumed with graduate studies in electrical engineering, Bakken found time to repair the centrifuges, electrocardiograph machines, and other intricate electronic equipment at the hospital. Bakken and his brother-in-law, Palmer Hermundslie, surmised that they could make a living at repairing medical equipment. In 1949 Bakken quit school, and Hermundslie left his job at a local lumber company so that they could form the medical equipment repair service they dubbed "Medtronic."

Bakken and Hermundslie initially worked out of a small garage in Minneapolis. During Medtronic's difficult first year, there was one month the business grossed a meager eight dollars. In 1950, however, the partners contracted as sales representatives for the Sanborn Company, the Gilford Instrument Company, and Advanced Instruments, Inc. In the early part of the decade more than half of their sales in the five-state region around Minneapolis came from selling the merchandise of the other companies.

As Bakken gained experience with medical professionals and their instruments, he was called upon to advise them in their experiments. Over the course of Medtronic's first decade Bakken built nearly 100 custom-made--often single-use--devices for medical research. Soon Medtronic was manufacturing several medical research products, including two types of defibrillators, as well as forceps, an animal respirator, a cardiac rate monitor, and a physiologic stimulator.

Advent of the Pacemaker

Medtronic's history became inextricably connected to the history of open-heart surgery. Electrically stimulated pacemaking had taken off in the 1950s when several physicians developed external machines that extended the lives of patients who otherwise would have died. These early pacemakers, however, had several disadvantages. The high-voltage electrodes they used often burned patients' skin, the devices were large and unmanageable, and they had to be plugged into the wall, thus restricting patients' mobility and making power failures life-threatening events.

During the late 1950s Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a pioneer of open-heart surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School, was researching a battery-powered device that would conduct a mild electric shock to the surface of a patient's heart in order to combat the heart block that caused fatalities in about ten percent of open-heart surgeries. Lillehei asked Bakken, who worked part-time repairing medical electronics at the school, to design an appropriate device. Within six weeks Bakken returned to Lillehei with the world's first transistorized, battery-operated, wearable pacemaker. By the end of the decade use of the devices had extended beyond the United States to Canada, Australia, Cuba, Europe, Africa, and South America. Bakken's invention was honored by the National Society of Professional Engineers as one of ten outstanding engineering products for the period from 1954 to 1984, and Medtronic earned a reputation as a front-running producer of biomedical engineering devices.

The partnership between electronics and cardiac research continued to advance open-heart surgery--and Medtronic--throughout the 1950s. Dr. Samuel Hunter of St. Joseph's Hospital research laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota, worked with Norman Roth, an electrical engineer at Medtronic, to create the so-called Hunter-Roth electrode, which required about 70 percent less current than Bakken's pacemaker system. In 1958 Dr. William Chardack and electrical engineer Wilson Greatbatch built the first implantable pacemaker in the United States. The device, which incorporated the Hunter-Roth bipolar wire lead, was first successfully implanted in a human in 1960. By October of that year Medtronic had purchased the exclusive rights to produce and market what was called the "Chardack-Greatbatch implantable pulse generator."

Rapid Growth in the 1960s

The growing company organized its distribution outside the United States and Canada through the employment of the Picker International Corporation of White Plains, New York. Picker specialized in electrical medical equipment sales and had an international network of 72 foreign sales offices. Fourteen Medtronic sales representatives covered the United States and Canada beginning in 1960. The company introduced several products that year, including the Telecor heart monitor; the Cardiac Sentinel, an alarm that automatically summoned aid when a patient's heart rate became critical and stimulated the heart; and the Coagulation Generator, which stanched bleeding during surgery.

The growing product line and increasing demand required that the company move to a new, larger facility in 1961. Despite Medtronic's dramatic sales increases--from $180,000 to more than $500,000 from 1960 to 1962--the company incurred losses during the same period. Expenses, like the appointment of Picker International, the cost of building a new headquarters, new product research, and attendance at major medical and engineering conventions, increased faster than sales. Early in 1962 the company eased its financial tensions through a bond offering of $200,000 and a $100,000 bank loan. The credit helped Medtronic turn a profit of $17,000 for the first three months of fiscal 1962.

Research continued throughout the 1960s on Medtronic's most important product, the implantable pacemaker. Enhancing the company's pacemaker sales was the introduction of Medicare in 1965, which provided U.S. government funding of healthcare for citizens over the age of 65 and thus increased the use of pacemakers. Among Medtronic's new pacemaker products was an endocardial catheter, a wire lead inserted through the jugular vein to the heart. When pacemakers with this "transvenous" lead were introduced to the market in 1965, they seized a substantial portion of pacemaker sales. In the mid-1960s Medtronic also introduced external and implantable pacemakers that compensated for irregular heartbeats.

New product introductions and pacemaker improvements helped sales surge to more than $12 million by the end of the 1967--68 fiscal year. Profits increased dramatically as well, exceeding $1 million that year. Medtronic established a European Service Center in 1967 to provide technical support for the continent, which generated 80 percent of overseas sales. In late 1969 Medtronic formed its own international division to accommodate direct European sales. In 1970 the company was able to drop its contract with Picker International and control international sales, which accounted for 30 percent of total sales by that time. Direct sales offices were established in 19 countries, and technical centers and manufacturing plants were erected in primary markets.

Medtronic also gained control of its primary North American distributors during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968 the company purchased John Hay & Company, Ltd., a medical sales organization headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. The A.F. Morrison Company was acquired the following year, and by 1973 Medtronic accomplished complete jurisdiction over its North American sales with the purchase of the Medical Specialty Company and Corvek Medical Equipment.

Continued Growth through the 1970s

Medtronic reached several milestones during the 1970s. The company surpassed $100 million in annual sales in 1975, and in 1977 Medtronic stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Globally Medtronic commanded a market share of 35 percent in the pacemaker category. By the end of the decade, Medtronic's annual sales exceeded $200 million. The company also began to diversify into other medical fields and regions. In 1976 Medtronic established its Neurological Division, which developed products to help relieve chronic and acute pain. A year later Medtronic founded its Heart Valves Division and launched the Hall mechanical heart valve. The company also established a headquarters in Latin America, as well as one in Europe. Manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, Canada, and France followed. By the end of the decade Medtronic had made its first major acquisition, Medical Data Systems, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, nuclear imaging company.

Medtronic remained primarily a pacemaker company, however, and cardiovascular products developed for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease included a nuclear-powered pacemaker. Medtronic's pacemakers were also made smaller, more resilient, and more reliable during the decade. The company consolidated pacemaker production vertically through the creation of Micro-Rel, Inc., a manufacturer of hybrid circuits, and the acquisition of Energy Technology--later renamed Promeon--a producer of lithium batteries. Other cardiovascular equipment developed in the 1970s helped physicians diagnose patients instantaneously and monitor them by telephone. Cardiovascular products contributed the bulk of Medtronic's sales.

Despite the company's success, the 1970s was not a trouble-free decade for Medtronic. Like many U.S. companies, Medtronic was affected by high inflation during the late 1970s. Tougher regulatory policies instituted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Food and Drug Administration also increased research costs through requirements for tougher clinical and follow-up testing. In 1976 Medtronic was forced to issue its first major product recall after the company discovered a technical flaw with the Xytron pacemaker. Medtronic's U.S. market share subsequently fell from 60 percent to 40 percent.

Medtronic experienced several leadership changes during the 1970s. In 1974 Bakken gave up the day-to-day responsibilities of the presidency to become chairman of the board. Thomas E. Holloran replaced him for two years, followed by Dale R. Olseth, who was elected president and chief executive officer.

Diversification in the 1980s

In the 1980s Medtronic sought to expand its product line further while keeping its strong emphasis on pacemakers. Routine reinvestment of more than eight percent of annual revenues during the decade fueled research and development of new and improved medical devices, and by 1981 annual sales reached another milestone--the $300 million mark. William R. Wallin was named president and CEO in 1985, and diversification became a corporate goal.

Computer technology helped Medtronic develop pacemakers that catered to a patient's particular requirements. The Spectrax SXT, a programmable pacemaker that could be reprogrammed after the initial implantation without performing surgery, led the market soon after its release in 1981. In 1985 the Activitrax pacemaker was the first such device to automatically adjust the rate of heart stimulation in accordance with the rate of activity. After its introduction to the market in 1986, the Activitrax quickly claimed 20 percent of the pacemaker category. That same year Medtronic solidified its position in this market for "rate-responsive pacing" with the purchase of Biotech of Bologna, Italy, and Vitatron of Dieren in the Netherlands. Breakthrough products in the late 1980s included CapSure steroid leads, which were designed to ease tissue inflammation, and Synergyst pacemakers, which united dual chamber and rate-responsive pacing.

Medtronic expanded into the fields of cardiac surgery and vascular therapies in the late 1980s through new products and acquisitions. Among the product lines new to Medtronic were tissue heart values, coronary angioplasty catheters, and tissue heart valves. Among the companies Medtronic acquired were Johnson & Johnson Cardiovascular, which produced the industry leading Maxima membrane oxygenator, a device used during open-heart surgery to reoxygenate blood, and Versaflex Delivery Systems, Inc., a company that made coronary angioplasty catheters. The company also began to develop neurological and drug delivery services, including the SynchroMed Drug Delivery System, the first implantable and programmable drug delivery system. Neurological devices introduced in the late 1980s included the Selectra and ComfortWave electrical nerve stimulators, used to treat sprains and back pain. La Jolla Technology, Inc., another producer of electrical nerve stimulators, was acquired in 1987 to strengthen Medtronic's position in this industry.

Medtronic's rapid growth and expansion, however, was not without setbacks. In 1983 Medtronic voluntarily recalled a new pacemaker lead when it recorded relatively high failure rates in clinical tests. These disadvantages resulted in slowed pacemaker sales, and in 1985 Medtronic reported its first year without an increase in sales and earnings. Medtronic was also involved in expensive patent litigation with such large medical manufacturers as Eli Lilly & Co. and Siemens AG during the decade.

Despite a few bumps in the road, Medtronic was able to increase its annual sales from $300 million in 1981 to $755 million in 1988 through numerous acquisitions and the development of new technologies. By the end of the decade, Medtronic had moved beyond its position as a pacemaker manufacturer and had become a major medical technology corporation.

Continuing Expansion in the Early 1990s

In 1991 William W. George became president and CEO, succeeding Wallin, who became chairman of the board, and Medtronic's total sales exceeded $1 billion. Medtronic had developed six primary areas of expertise by the early 1990s: bradycardia pacing, tachyarrhythmia management, heart valves, and cardiopulmonary, interventional vascular, and neurological devices. In 1992 the company's international sales contributed 40 percent of total revenues, justifying new facilities and expanded operations in Japan, China, and Eastern Europe, as well as increased focus on such developing nations as India and China and on countries in Latin America and Africa.

Continuing with its diversification strategy, Medtronic acquired a number of companies during the first half of the decade, including TUR, a German pacemaker manufacturer; Bio-Medicus, Inc., the world's largest maker of centrifugal blood pumps; PS Medical, Inc., a maker of shunts, devices designed to prevent fluid buildup in the brain; and DLP, Inc., which developed cardiac cannulae used in surgery. These acquisitions helped solidify Medtronic's lead in the area of medical technology and advanced the company's presence in new fields. In 1995, according to the Star-Tribune, Medtronic had a 49 percent share of the conventional pacemaker market, 32 percent of the implantable defibrillator market, and 75 percent in nerve-related devices.

Medtronic stepped up its product development cycles and continued to feed its research and development budget--the company spent about 11 percent of total revenues on research and development in 1995, up from 9.4 percent in 1990&mdashø survive in the increasingly competitive medical technology marketplace. The Thera line of pacemakers took about 27 months from final design to market introduction, about half the pacemaker design cycle of the mid-1980s. Medtronic's focus on product development resulted in a number of pioneering devices during the first part of the decade, including the PCD defibrillator, the Jewel implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, implantable Transvene taccharrhythmia leads, the Model 9790 pacemaker programmer, and additional models of the SynchroMed Drug Delivery System, including one for the treatment of chronic spasticity.

Accelerated Development in the Late 1990s

In the second half of the decade, Medtronic adopted an increasingly aggressive expansion strategy to survive in the medical product field, which had been consolidated into a handful of large medical technology companies. The pacemaker category, Medtronic's core business, was expected to slow in growth, and the company intended to stave off declining profits through diversification. Medtronic's revenues exceeded $2 billion in 1996, and the company continued its acquisition and new product introduction efforts. In 1995 Medtronic added Micro Interventional Systems, Inc., a developer of catheters designed to treat stroke victims, to its neurological division. A year later the company acquired Synectics Medical AB of Sweden, which made systems for gastroenterology, urology, and sleep apnea; InStent, a stent manufacturer; and AneuRx, a maker of endovascular stented grafts. Between 1996 and 1998 Medtronic introduced a number of new products, including the Micro Jewel II, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator; the Wiktor Prime coronary stent, designed to support the walls of a coronary artery; and the Activa Tremor Control System, which helped treat tremors associated with Parkinson's disease.

Amid the flurry of sales growth--during the second quarter of fiscal 1997, Medtronic's pacemaker sales grew nine percent, implantable defibrillator sales increased 27 percent, and its neurological product sales grew more than 60 percent--the company's vascular operations, which included catheters and stents, were not doing as well as the company had hoped. Although the coronary stent market was growing rapidly, Medtronic was unable to successfully market stents, and as a result the company was forced in early 1998 to take its first business-related charge since 1985. The company also announced plans to close eight manufacturing plants and downsize its staff by 600 employees.

Medtronic was also losing market share in the defibrillator category to strong competition, particularly from Guidant Corp., which offered a technologically advanced dual-chamber defibrillator that grabbed about 25 percent of the U.S. defibrillator market soon after its introduction in 1998. Medtronic was the leader in the $1.8 billion global defibrillator industry, which was growing at the breakneck rate of about 30 percent a year, but according to Sanford Bernstein & Co.'s Kenneth Abramowitz, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, in the United States Medtronic held some 40--45 percent of the market, while Guidant had a share of 45--50 percent. Medtronic fought back in mid-1998, however, by acquiring Physio-Control International Inc., a maker of external defibrillators, in its largest acquisition to date.

Medtronic's problems were relatively minor in comparison to its outstanding growth in 1998. Medtronic acquired Avecor Cardiovascular, Inc., to expand its cardiac surgery operation, and Midas Rex LP, a maker of pneumatic instruments for neurological surgery. Through its acquisitions Medtronic grew by 45 percent in 1998. Medtronic also opened a new pacemaker manufacturing facility in Europe in that year and was honored as one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune magazine.

As Medtronic entered its 50th anniversary year in 1999, the company showed no signs of slowing down. Among the new products introduced by the company were the Medtronic.Kappa 700, a series of pacemakers designed to adapt automatically to patient needs; the InSync stimulator, a device used to treat heart failure; and the Gem implantable defibrillator series. By the close of fiscal 1999, which ended in April, Medtronic had acquired two more companies. Sofamor Danek Group, Inc., the leader in spinal disorder treatment and cranial surgery, significantly boosted Medtronic's neurology division, and according to Health Industry Today, the purchase of Arterial Vascular Engineering, Inc., increased Medtronic's market share to a commanding 40 percent of the $3.5 billion global market in coronary stents.

Medtronic reported that fiscal 1999 represented the company's 14th consecutive year of increased revenues, with nearly one-third of its revenue attributed to operations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only was Medtronic enjoying increased sales but the company was also leading the pack in terms of product development. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Medtronic was issued the most medical device patents in the world from 1969 to September 1998; to remain competitive in the aggressive medical device industry, Medtronic planned to invest nearly $500 million in research and development in fiscal 2000.

As Medtronic approached the new millennium, the company continued to strengthen its four primary product platforms: cardiac rhythm management, neurological and spinal surgery, vascular devices, and cardiac surgery. In August 1999 Medtronic acquired Xomed Surgical Products, Inc., the leading manufacturer of surgical products used to treat ear, nose, and throat problems. Its acquisition, according to Medtronic, would position the company as the global market leader in the ear, nose, and throat category. Medtronic planned to release numerous new products and technologies in fiscal 2000 to continue its leadership position in the medical technology field.

Principal Subsidiaries: Medtronic Europe S.A. (Switzerland); Medtronic International, Ltd. (Hong Kong); Medtronic of Canada, Ltd.

Additional Details

Further Reference

Alexander, Steve, "New Product Machine," Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul), June 5, 1995, p. D1.Barshay, Jill J., "Medical Devices," Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul), September 22, 1998, p. D1.Burton, Thomas M., "Medtronic's Stock Price Falls 10% on Warning of Earnings Shortfall," Wall Street Journal, August 7, 1998, p. B5.Dubashi, Jagannath, "Change of Pace," Financial World, March 17, 1992, pp. 26--27.Lau, Gloria, "Companies in the News--Device Maker Medtronic Inc. Steps Up Defibrillator Efforts," Investor's Business Daily, July 21, 1998, p. A33.Medtronic Beginnings, Minneapolis: Medtronic, Inc., 1993.Moore, Michael P., "The Genesis of Minnesota's Medical Alley," University of Minnesota Medical Bulletin, winter 1992, pp. 7--13.Nelson, Glen D., M.D., "A Brief History of Cardiac Pacing," Texas Heart Institute Journal, vol. 20, 1993, pp. 12--18.Sherer, Paul M., "Medtronic Has Fans, but Doubters, Too," Wall Street Journal, December 31, 1998, p. C1.The Story of Medtronic, Minneapolis: Medtronic, Inc., 1997.Toward Man's Full Life, Minneapolis: Medtronic, Inc., 1990.

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