My father was a physician. There were four kids in the family. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor. He was a very hard worker. But when I was 17, my father passed away. It was rough on everyone.
My initial desire was to follow in my dad's footsteps and become a doctor. So I took math and sciences. But after he died, it forced me to re-evaluate things. I took a sales job in the pharmaceutical promotions business while going to school part-time.
I literally went to two classes at York University–business administration and economics. In the business class, I thought I was going to learn how to be an entrepreneur. But it was more about how to motivate employees. I sat there thinking how I was already working for a tough boss, and the way he worked with motivation was you either worked or you got fired.
That first job gave me an insight into what physicians do. I discovered their time is extremely limited, making it hard to be educated on advances in medicine. So I got the idea to be a medical publisher. I learned to access a database at the National Library of Medicine near Washington, D.C. I extracted, by specialty, every major medical article published. I then had them reviewed by an editorial board, who would select, by specialty, the top articles that should be viewed by their colleagues.
I was publisher, managing editor, the guy who reviewed the typos, and, in some cases, I was the paste-up artist. I took that company public in 1987. In 1989, Thomson Corp. approached me to buy my business. By then it had about 40 different titles.
After that, I saw a huge trend toward dealing with the issue of patient compliance when taking medicine–especially in the elderly. I saw an opportunity to reformulate products from having to take them three or four times a day to once a day. Back then, studies showed 60% of patients were not taking their drugs properly, and that's a disaster. That's the start of Biovail.
I don't believe you can succeed in business without taking risk, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. If you make a mistake, the smartest thing you can do is to learn from it and move on. The key is to have more successes than failures.
In 1989, Biovail was a small, private company. No one questioned what you did. Fast-forward to today, and running a public company is dramatically different. One of the most important mandates I have given myself has been to make Biovail first in class when it comes to corporate governance. It's not difficult, but it takes time, patience and it takes vigilance.
I had to make up my mind that you can't help everyone, so I wanted to come up with a philanthropic strategy that I truly believe in and that I am passionate about. You have to focus your efforts so you can make a difference. I came up with two themes–one is helping children, the other is helping the elderly.
I love horses and the whole horse business. I have a big breeding farm in Florida. I breed them, sell them, race them. I made up my mind you have to play in this game on a size and scale that gives you enough chances to actually win.
For me to get involved in the Ottawa Senators was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. When I come to Ottawa for a Senators' game, I don't discuss business. I'm a fan first and an owner second. There's a great rivalry between the Senators and the Maple Leafs, and I hope it continues to be a friendly rivalry. I think it's great for hockey.
Bert's Bar is a little watering hole in Barbados where I'd go to watch Senators games. But Bert's Bar would get overwhelmed whenever Ottawa played–there's a huge ex-pat Canadian community in Barbados, and it also gets 70,000 Canadian tourists every year. So I bought the bar, and I'm now expanding it. It's set to reopen later this year or early 2006. It's going to be a great spot to watch hockey games. And absolutely, all Leafs' fans are welcome.
Born May 27, 1959, in Toronto
Drug developer; owner of the Ottawa Senators
1982: Melnyk, a physician's son, founds medical publishing firm Trimel Corp., condensing medical research into key notes for doctors.
1987: Melnyk takes Trimel public; sells it to Thomson Corp. for $6.5 million in 1989, then buys 50% stake in Biovail Corp. International
1991: Owns 100% of Biovail; first product, Tiazac, launched in 1996; in 2001, wins U.S. licence deal for its top drug, Wellbutrin XL.
2003: Becomes owner of Senators, buying them out of bankruptcy protection. In 2004, leaves Biovail CEO job, remains chairman.
2005: Melnyk, ranked 43 on 2005 Rich 100, named in ongoing OSC insider trading probe; Biovail scores supply deal for Tramadol.