As a big cricket enthusiast, you can’t blame Udit Batra for turning to a sports analogy now and then.
When Batra was recruited from MilliporeSigma to run Waters Corp. in mid-2020, sales at the Milford lab equipment maker had essentially flatlined. So, it seemed, had the stock.
But the former captain of the Princeton cricket team had plenty to brag about when he presented at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference last week (held virtually for the second year in a row). Annual sales at Waters are on track for $2.7 billion, up from $2.4 billion. The company’s stock is trading above $330, compared to $212 when Batra started on Sept. 1, 2020. That puts its market cap at $20 billion, making it one of the most valuable publicly traded companies in Massachusetts.
“There are some days [in cricket] where you feel like everything is going right, . . . and the ball lands in the right spot, it moves in the right way, it’s doing what you intended to do,” Batra said in an interview. “That’s what I feel like at Waters.”
So what has been going right? Batra encouraged salespeople to be more methodical about checking with clients to replace outdated equipment. He instituted new accountability measures for his leaders. He plowed money into research and development. And he presided over an expansion into the fast-growing bioprocessing sector, by signing agreements with bioreactor supplier Sartorius and the University of Delaware to develop better ways of drug development, improving speed and accuracy.
All this, while managing through a global pandemic. US employees, for example, wear Kinexon tags to alert them if they get too close to each other. To date, there have been no documented cases of COVID-19 transmission at Waters facilities.
Batra gathered hundreds of employees in a softball field last August to break the news: All US workers would need to be vaccinated (with exceptions made for religious or health reasons). At the time, 70 percent of his US workforce was vaccinated. Now, following dozens of one-on-one sessions, it’s 95 percent.
Sure, he’s in charge. But he deflects credit for the Waters turnaround to his colleagues. After all, running a company is a team sport.
Eastern passes on pot
Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers apparently has found Century’s cannabis business too hot to handle, so he’s handing the entire joint over to Joe Campanelli, the chief executive of Needham Bank.
Eastern announced Friday it would transfer its newly acquired cannabis banking business to Needham. Eastern quietly began seeking potential buyers soon after acquiring Century Bank, the largest bank in the state’s budding cannabis business by far, in November.
Rivers said he seriously considered keeping the business, which has about $500 million in deposits. But differences between state and federal marijuana rules bring logistical headaches that he wasn’t ready to bake into Eastern’s long-term strategy — the high volume of cash transactions, and the special handling of that cash.
Century had one location for cannabis companies to do their banking, in Medford. Campanelli said he will continue to lease it through the year’s end, and is looking for another spot nearby for a cannabis branch after the lease is up. Century’s 20-person cannabis team, led by Paul Evangelista, will join Needham.
Campanelli said acquiring an existing team will be easier than building a cannabis business from scratch, something he was considering.
Rivers, meanwhile, said it was not easy to give up on a sector where Eastern suddenly found itself the undisputed leader.
“This industry is here to stay,” Rivers said. “To walk away from one of the emerging sectors of the economy, it’s not an easy decision.”
Fare thee well, Rosemarie
For 14 years, Rosemarie Sansone has kept a watchful eye over Downtown Crossing. Soon it will be someone else’s turn.
On Thursday, she announced her pending retirement in February from the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District. The board, led by Pam Messenger, is forming a search committee to replace her.
Sansone spearheaded the creation of the BID, a business taxation district, at the urging of then-mayor Thomas M. Menino. So she took a job leading the Downtown Crossing Partnership, which later morphed into the Downtown Boston BID in 2010. (Two other BIDs have since been launched in Boston, one along the Greenway and one underway at Newmarket Square.)
As chief executive of the downtown BID, Sansone oversees a staff of 10 and a budget of about $7 million. The biggest budget item: a contract with Block by Block, a Kentucky company, to run an ambassadors program, keeping the downtown streets staffed on a 24/7 basis.
The district, of course, faces a new set of challenges, with most office workers who normally shop and eat there on weekdays staying home because of the pandemic.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the work we were able to do,” Sansone said. “[But] the world has changed. It’s time for new leadership.”
Nohria’s next move
Former Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria has found a new environment in which to thrive.
Thrive Capital said on Friday that Nohria would join the New York VC firm in a newly created role as executive chairman; Nohria will also be a partner, with involvement in operations, investment decisions, and strategy. Nohria guided HBS from 2010 through 2020, and remained on board as a professor after Srikant Datar took over as dean.
Nohria has been a longtime mentor to Joshua Kushner, the founder and managing partner at Thrive and an HBS graduate. (Kushner is also the brother of former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.) Thrive, meanwhile, has invested in a series of high-profile startups, ranging from Stripe to Robinhood to Slack.
“Thrive has benefited tremendously from Nitin’s involvement as an advisor over the last year and we are grateful for the contributions he has made,” Kushner said in a statement. “His leadership and insatiable curiosity have already made Thrive better, and we are excited to see how we will grow from his leadership and increased presence.”
On King day, a story of legacies
The people behind the King Boston project hoped to celebrate MLK Day in person at the ‘Quin House, but COVID-19 forced a change of plans. Instead, the Boston Foundation initiative gathered virtual comments from the likes of Governor Charlie Baker, Labor Secretary and former mayor Martin J. Walsh, and Mayor Michelle Wu, before a 30-minute tribute/documentary produced by Beyond Measure Productions was to be aired on NBC10 Boston and sister station NECN on Monday night.
This is the third such video production made for King Boston. Imari Paris Jeffries, the group’s executive director, said two more are on their way, with the final one expected to air a year from now. It will be timed with the unveiling of the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King that will go up on the Boston Common.
This video focuses on themes of legacies and ancestors, and features the likes of former UMass Boston chancellor Keith Motley, The Base founder Robert Lewis Jr., state Representative Liz Miranda, city economic development chief Segun Idowu, and Catherine Morris at the Boston Foundation. Amazon underwrote this video project, a contribution coordinated by Jerome Smith, a former Walsh aide who now works for the tech giant.
Paris Jeffries said he’s already received a provocative response from the trailer — which, among other things, contrasts a present-day Motley with how he looked when he was young. “Several people have said to me [that] it was great to see Dr. Motley with hair on his head,” Paris Jeffries said. “Many of us only remember him bald . . . It was great to see these elders in their youth in the city. The stories they tell in the video were moving to me.”