Medical device maker Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., in New Brighton has hired a seasoned Medtronic executive known for her skills in building teams and strategies to ratchet up growth in high-potential niches.
Minnesota native Rhonda Robb starts her new role as chief operating officer of CSI Friday, where she joins fellow Medtronic alumnus Scott Ward, who became CEO of CSI just 17 months ago following the untimely death of the former CEO.
Ward knew Robb from when they were at Medtronic, and he decided to call her a couple of months ago when the time came to find a successor for CSI's outgoing chief operating officer, Kevin Kenny.
Robb is leaving a $30 billion-revenue company, where she was a general manager, for one with $200 million in sales. She said she was intrigued by the idea of joining a device firm that needed someone to build strong teams and execute an ambitious growth plan.
"The more I learned about the opportunity and this company, I became very intrigued. There's a lot of similarities: Both Medtronic and CSI are incredibly mission-focused. And for me, that kind of central patient theme running through the heart of the organization is critical, and that was there," Robb said. "The company has just completed its strategic planning and I'm really excited about the platform for growth that they've established here."
Robb held various management and marketing roles at Medtronic dating to 1995, serving most recently as general manager of heart valve therapies — a job that put her in charge of Medtronic's go-go transcatheter valve program.
Medtronic's CoreValve aortic heart valve wasn't even approved for sale in the U.S. when she got the role managing the device program in 2009. Under her tenure, the business grew from $80 million in revenue to global sales of more than $1 billion, after passing a key regulatory milestone and being rolled out to doctors in 65 countries.
Analysts with Leerink Partners wrote that Robb's hiring was "a major win" for CSI.
"Robb's arrival not only, to us, validates CSI's technology and strategy but also signals the potential for improving fundamentals going forward, given Robb's significant operating experience," the analysts wrote.
CSI makes a line of devices that are used to unblock severely clogged blood vessels in the legs and around the heart. The therapy, called "orbital atherectomy," involves using a diamond-studded crown mounted on a spinning shaft that is advanced through the vasculature to the site of the calcified blockage that can't be treated with standard angioplasty techniques.
But CSI's recent challenges have not stemmed from its technology.
Company stock fell from $40 a share in April 2015 to $8 less than a year later, as CSI was buffeted by whistleblower allegations of illegal sales tactics. Those allegations were settled with no admission of wrongdoing in June 2016 with an $8 million payment to the Justice Department and a five-year corporate integrity agreement with Medicare's inspector general.
The company announced a $2.4 million restructuring charge in the spring of 2016 composed of severance and employee-related costs. Then last year the company paid an undisclosed settlement to a former sales manager who sued the company for firing him after reporting what he considered illegal sales tactics. Just this month a federal judge handed CSI a legal victory by dismissing a shareholder suit involving the losses in share prices.
The company hired Ward in the wake of former CEO Dave Martin's death. During an earnings call with investors last August, Ward noted that the company's second fiscal quarter in 2017 marked its first quarterly net profit, while the $1.8 million net loss for the fiscal year was an improvement of more than $54 million compared to the prior year.
"We are really focused now on driving our future growth and building a cardiovascular company," Ward said Thursday. "And I think Rhonda's addition to our team is evidence that we're just building a really strong organization here."