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Winter 2003 CalBusiness  
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Playtex CEO an Intrapreneur at Heart

Mike Gallagher knows the ins and outs of household products better than the most scrupulous housewife. That’s because he’s had a major hand in creating, packaging, and marketing them for more than 30 years.

Gallagher has been an executive with some of the biggies in the food, laundry, and personal care industry: Procter and Gamble, Clorox, Reckitt and Colman and L&F Products. Since 1994, he’s been the CEO of Playtex. “What I enjoy most about this work is the creative side,” he says. “I love turning ideas into legitimate projects, working with advertising to create campaigns to inform consumers about their benefits, and developing exciting packaging that tells your story.”

And Gallagher is clearly good at what he does. At Playtex, he has fully restructured the company, augmenting R&D spending and making significant acquisitions. The result? “We’re now No. 1 and No. 2 in businesses that represent 95 percent of our revenues,” Gallagher says proudly – businesses that include infant feeding and diaper disposal systems, infant toys, children’s bubble bath, and hand and face wipes, among a long list of others.

Being a father of three (now young adult) children has certainly helped him to get under the skin of his consumers. But Gallagher has also brought a host of other talents to the table that have contributed to his success. “To lead well, you’ve got to be excited by what you’re doing,” he says. “You need to learn to give credit and dole out criticism constructively. You’ve got to be tough in the day-to-day battles in the marketplace, but understanding with the people in your organization.”

The training he received at the business school, he says, also gave him an advantage. “The diversity of thinking I was exposed to was a great eye-opener as to what life was like outside the academic environment,” he says. “And the school’s entrepreneurial emphasis instilled in me the capacity to become an intrapraneur in the more structured businesses in which I’ve worked.”

Outside of the office, Gallagher is a devoted family man. “Being able to go to bed at night knowing I’ve done everything I can do for my family’s happiness has always been very important to me,” he says. He’s also an avid golfer. “Golf is almost like an Eastern religion – it forces you to be relaxed and focused at the same time,” he reflects. “It teaches you interesting lessons that can be translated to all areas of life – like how to handle frustration or how to focus more on competing against your own skills than competing against others. And it all takes place in a beautiful environment. You can’t beat that.”

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Michael R. Gallagher
Michael R. Gallagher
BS 67, MBA 68

CEO, Playtex Products Inc.

Member, Haas School Advisory Board
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