Jim Mazzo, a pioneer in Orange County’s ophthalmology industry for 40 years, is retiring as president of the Ophthalmic Devices unit at German-based Carl Zeiss Meditec Inc., effective May 1.
He hasn’t stopped working, though.
“I don’t want anyone to think I’m [completely] retiring,” Mazzo told the Business Journal last week. “They just would like to use that word ‘retiring’ since that’s what I’m doing from Zeiss—but not from the industry.”
Mazzo, one of the Business Journal’s 50 most influential executives in Orange County, said he will remain active such as being on the board of directors of Avellino Labs, a Menlo Park-based biotech company (see story, page 63). He also has another venture up his sleeve.
“I am going to be taking on another company that will be announced in a couple of months,” Mazzo said.
Boost at Zeiss
Mazzo in 2016 took over the Carl Zeiss Meditec unit, which generated a 15% increase in sales to about $1.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The company said significant drivers of revenue growth were laser systems for vision correction, as well as devices and consumables for cataract surgery.
In a statement about his departure, Zeiss (XETRA: AFX.DE) said Mazzo transformed the Global Ophthalmic Devices unit into the No. 2 industry leader in ophthalmology; Geneva-based Alcon is the largest in the sector. Zeiss’ shares tripled during Mazzo’s time at the company, which sports a roughly $7.6 billion market cap.
“Jim has been an integral part of growing our global ophthalmology business and has strengthened a customer-oriented mindset and service into the ZEISS culture,” Dr. Ludwin Monz, chief executive of Carl Zeiss Meditec, said in a statement.
“His leadership, insights and guidance have been instrumental in building a strong team, while creating a global approach through regional alignment and increasing visibility of professional education for customers,” Monz said.
Mazzo said he declined a Zeiss offer to continue, saying he’ll become an adviser as of May 1, and officially leaving on Sept. 30 when the company’s fiscal year ends.
“It was just the right time—and rarely do you get to pick the right time.”
Mazzo became well known for leading Allergan’s North American and European eyecare organizations that made products such as contact lens fluids. After Allergan spun off his unit in 2002 as Advanced Medical Optics, Mazzo pushed it to become a powerhouse in vision correction surgeries. In 2009, AMO was sold to Abbott Laboratories for about twice the price of when it went public.
He ran into legal problems when he was accused of giving insider information on the AMO sale to Doug DeCinces, a neighbor and one-time baseball star with the Angels. All charges were eventually dismissed in 2018.
“By all accounts, Mr. Mazzo is an upstanding member of the Orange County community and is widely respected for his commitment to our community and various charitable causes,” said in a 2018 letter signed by 37 top local executives who opposed the government retrying Mazzo on the allegations and printed in the Business Journal.
The Eyes Have It
Mazzo was also named this year as a recipient of the 2020 Ellis Island Medal of Honor that recognizes the importance of immigrants to America’s success.
He was instrumental in raising funds for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, which is at the University of California-Irvine. Herbert, who was chairman and CEO of Allergan, is considered one of the founding fathers of OC’s ophthalmic and drug-making industry.
“The one tangible thing that I am most proud of is the Gavin Herbert Eye institute because … we raised all the funds without government help,” Mazzo said.
“It was honoring two tremendous gentlemen, Gavin Herbert and Roger Steinert that have impacted me and many others, and it’s putting a world class eye center in the heart of Orange County.”
Mazzo is also a founder and the chairman of Octane, a key local technology and medical accelerator. His influence in Orange County is apparent; at last year’s Ophthalmic Technology Summit he moderated discussions by prominent executives like Tom Burns, chief executive of medical eye device maker Glaukos Corp. (NYSE: GKOS).
“What people are so concerned about is sight. If you lose your sight you lose your independence,” Mazzo said.
He’s been vice chairman at Chapman University and a trustee at UCI. He also maintains a variety of board positions, including as the executive chair at Neurotech Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Cumberland, R.I.-based biopharmaceutical company.
Mazzo’s responsibilities at Zeiss will be divided among two successors: Andrew Chang will take over the position of president and lead Global Ophthalmic sales of the strategic business unit, while Euan Thomson, Ph.D., will manage the Global Ophthalmic and Digital Business Unit.
Chang has experience working at Abbott Medical Optics Inc. and was senior vice president of Bausch & Lomb Surgical, while Thomson served on the board of directors for Advanced Oncotherpay PLC and was the head of digital health for Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center. He also took on the Global head of R&D Digital Technology and Advanced Innovation at New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson.