Former chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson Richard B Sellars dies at 94

Richard B Sellars, 94, former chairman and chief executive of healthcare major Johnson & Johnson, died yesterday of old age.

Sellars, who joined Johnson & Johnson as a junior salesman in 1939, rose to the position of chairman of the board and CEO during a career spanning 40 years a company release said.

"Richard Sellars was an inspirational leader who filled all who met him with a deep sense of the company's responsibility to its customers, employees, community and shareholders," said William C Weldon, chairman and chief executive of Johnson & Johnson. "He will be missed."

A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Sellars was born on 9 September 1915. He attended American International College and Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. While he did not earn a degree from either institution, they both later conferred on him honorary degrees, as did Rutgers University.

Sellars joined Johnson & Johnson's sales force in 1939 and began a rapid rise within two of the company's major affiliates, Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation and Ethicon, Inc. At Ortho, he became a vice president and director in 1948 and later was president of Ethicon. In 1950, Sellars was elected to Johnson & Johnson's board of directors and seven years later became chairman of the board of both Ortho and Ethicon.

Sellars became president of Johnson & Johnson International in 1970 and a year later was named chairman of the executive committee of the Johnson & Johnson board of directors. In 1973, he became chairman and chief executive officer, a position he held until his retirement from that post in 1976. From then until his retirement in 1979, Sellars served as chairman of Johnson & Johnson's finance committee, but directed most of his time to the New Brunswick Tomorrow project to revitalise the city of New Brunswick.