The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Accounting alum Crawford says ‘good people’ the best formula for resurrecting struggling companies

Former CVS/Caremark Chairman Mac Crawford shared business strategy with Harbert College of Business MBA students on Sept. 8.

How does a business that is failing get resurrected? Does it create a new marketing campaign? Does it lower prices, offer better customer service or provide a better product? It may need all of these items and more, but for Mac Crawford, it begins with the most important business of all.

“A failing business doesn’t resurrect itself. Good people working hard resurrect troubled businesses,” said Crawford, a 1971 Harbert College of Business accounting graduate whose 40-year professional career is highlighted by numerous successful corporate turnarounds. “When you hire people in business, you are looking for people that fit the job you are trying to fill from a skill perspective; however, as important the people must have integrity and character. Integrity, character, pride and skill form the four corners of the foundation of successful businesses.”

The former CVS/Caremark Chairman visited Harbert College on Sept. 8, including an informative session with the college’s MBA students. His resume may be highlighted by leading turnarounds at  companies such as CaremarkRx, Inc. (formerly MedPartners) and Charter Medical Corporation (renamed Magellan Health Services), but behind the scenes he is partially responsible for helping to resurrect Auburn’s football program after a disastrous 3-9 season in 2012. The program was at the bottom of the SEC and needed a new head coach.

Crawford, a fullback at Auburn in 1968-69 and Walter Gilbert Award winner in 2003, was appointed, along with Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan, to assist athletics director Jay Jacobs in the search for a new head coach.

“Players and coaches should take a lot of pride in being at Auburn as a part of a great institution” said Crawford. “That seemed to be missing in 2012. We wanted someone who would restore the Auburn pride, integrity, character and skill that Auburn is known for.”

They found that in Gus Malzahn.

“A couple of things about Gus: I had never seen him wearing anything but the outfit he wore when he was coaching, including the baseball cap he always wore, pulled down on his head,” Crawford added. “But when we interviewed him in my office in Nashville, he walked in looking like he came in from Wall Street — suit, tie, well groomed, etc. He knew what needed to be done and he had a plan to resurrect the program. He stressed the importance of hard work, good behavior, developing students that represented Auburn in the proper manner. The bottom line was that he had a great interview and sold us on the fact that he was the right man for the job.”

The High Springs, Fla. native knows a thing or two about being a student athlete.

“Playing college athletics and being a student is very demanding. I quickly realized that I was not the best athlete on the field, but I was at Auburn to get an education and I felt that I could compete with anyone in the classroom. I got a great education at Auburn, but I also learned to never give up and to never get outworked on the football field.”

After graduating from Auburn, Crawford spent 10 years in public accounting before he decided to move into managing businesses. After working with several smaller companies, he found himself running Charter Medical Corporation and taking it through a restructuring and business transformation. That led to the opportunity in 1998 to run a company in Birmingham by the name of MedPartners which was in the physician practice management business.

Medpartners also owned a company that it had recently acquired for the physician practices that it owned. This company was Caremark which also had a $2 billion revenue business managing the pharmacy benefits for corporations, governmental entities and health plans.

Crawford quickly determined that MedPartners was in dire straits and he began to restructure the business. The physician practice management business was exited and the company focused on the pharmacy benefit management (PBM) sector. When Crawford joined MedPartners in 1998, it was a $7 billion revenue business. After exiting the physician practices it was a $2 billion business in 2001. The company name was changed to CaremarkRx, Inc. and it enjoyed a period of tremendous growth. By 2007 the company had grown to a $33 billion revenue business making it number 60 on the Fortune 500 list of US companies.

In late 2006 Caremark was approached by the pharmacy retailer CVS regarding a merger of the 2 companies. The merger was completed in March of 2007 and Crawford became Chairman of the combined businesses. Today, CVSCaremark ranks as No. 12 on the Fortune 500 list.

“Caremark is a great company with a great business and great employees. It had been ignored by the MedPartners’management and I was fortunate enough to recognize its potential,” Crawford said. “Caremark had great people, a very good business model and it did business the right way. I am very proud of what it has become.

“I am very proud of the education that I received at Auburn, both in the classroom and on the football field. I was also very lucky to meet and marry my wife, Linda, while at Auburn.”

Crawford has served on the board of seven publicly held companies, as chairman of three of them. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Washington & Lee University and he serves on the Board of Advisors at the international public relations firm Fleishman-Hilliard.

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