RALEIGH – As a sales and marketing executive at the pharmaceutical giant Allergan in the early 2000s, Bob Rhatigan led the commercial launch of Botox, the injectable Botulinum neurotoxin for smoothing frown lines.

The FDA’s approval of Botox for wrinkle relief in 2002 established the aesthetic medicines industry, and the product went on to become a blockbuster that rang up $2.8 billion in worldwide sales in 2016.

Rhatigan considers the commercialization of Botox his greatest career success, but today he finds himself competing head-to-head with Botox and Allergan as the new CEO of Raleigh-based Merz North America, part of the Merz Pharma Group of Frankfurt, Germany.

Merz, specializing in aesthetics, skin care and neurotoxins, sells a product similar to Botox, called Xeomin, for smoothing frown lines between the eyebrows.

Within six months of taking the helm at Merz North America in March 2017, Rhatigan enlisted supermodel, actress and entrepreneur Christie Brinkley to help promote Xeomin, as well as another Merz product, Ultherapy, an ultrasound-based treatment for tightening and lifting skin on the eyebrow, neck and chin.

“That for us was a very significant move,” Rhatigan tells WRAL TechWire. “It is very well received by the aesthetics customer base, which are dermatologists and plastic surgeons, because it creates a lot of consumer interest for these elective procedures.”

Signing Brinkley is the first time the privately owned company has hired a celebrity for direct-to-consumer advertising in its 110-year history, Rhatigan says, and the campaign is paying off with rising sales.

“She’s been just a perfect brand ambassador and spokesperson for us,” he says.


The Brinkley deal is one of several changes Rhatigan has made at Merz in his first year as CEO. During that time he has also recruited top industry talent; expanded the company’s sales force; narrowed the product lines each salesperson represents so the agents can be more knowledgeable about them; and improved workplace culture by defining what it should be and measuring employee engagement every six months.

He has also reoriented Merz to have “a high degree of customer centricity where the customer is the center of our universe and everything we’re doing.” The company’s 900 North America employees who enter the headquarters in North Raleigh or other facilities in Franksville, Wis., Mesa, Ariz., or Toronto are reminded of that directive by a question painted on the walls: “How have you helped a sales rep or customer today?”

Those moves are already making a difference.

“We’ve positively impacted the trajectory of the business in a short time,” Rhatigan says. “When I joined the company, our momentum wasn’t real positive. We were kind of in a downward cycle from a business standpoint and an employee-engagement standpoint. We’ve really turned the tide there. We have really positive momentum on the business side, and we have, I think, a very good culture, and one that’s improving.”

The Merz Pharma Group, which has about 3,000 employees and 34 subsidiaries worldwide, is on pace this fiscal year to grow sales by 6 percent over the prior year, Rhatigan says.

“That’s coming off a previous year when we were trending the wrong way,” Rhatigan says. “We’ve made a very dramatic swing from a downward to a positive trend, and that growth is accelerating every month, which is very good to see.”

Continuing that business momentum from the North America perspective is his short-term goal. “Long term we want to be an admired, trusted, innovative leader in aesthetics and neurotoxins,” Rhatigan says

Merz is the third leading company in the medical aesthetics industry, behind No 1. Allergan and No. 2. Galderma. It had global sales of $1.2 billion in 2016-17, with North America sales accounting for about a third of the total.

Within the next few years Rhatigan wants Merz to overcome Galderma for the second spot and then close the gap on Allergan.

The company has a growing portfolio of products that support its mission to help people “live better, feel better and look better.” In addition to Ultherapy and Xeomin, other products in Merz’s aesthetics division include:

  • Asclera, an injection for treating spider veins and varicose veins
  • Belotero Balance, an injection for smoothing folds or wrinkles that go from the side of the nose to the corner of the mouth
  • Cellfina, a minimally invasive system for smoothing cellulite dimples in female buttocks and thighs
  • Describe, a skin patch for making laser-based tattoo removal faster, safer and more effective. The patch was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in December for use with all lasers commonly used for tattoo removal.
  • Mederma, a line of skin care products including creams, gels and oils for treating scars and stretch marks
  • Neocutis, a line of anti-aging skin creams
  • Radiesse, an injectable dermal filler for smoothing facial wrinkles.

Products in Merz’s neuroscience division include Cuvposa, a medication for reducing chronic severe drooling caused by neurologic conditions in children aged 3 to 16 years, and Prolaryn, an injectable implant for treating weak or damaged vocal cords.


Rhatigan, 52, came to Merz after serving for two years as president and chief operating officer of Alphaeon Corp., a medical aesthestics startup company in Irvine, Calif. That job followed a 17-year career at Allergan, where he last worked as senior vice president, general manager and chief executive of the company’s SkinMedica business.

Before Allergan, he spent nine years in sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble upon graduation from the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he had a double major in business economics and law and society.

Rhatigan says he was attracted to Merz because the company is a major player in medical aesthetics, an industry he knows well.

“I have a very strong affinity for it,” he says. “I like the space a lot. I like the customer base that we work with in dermatology and plastic surgery.”

Rhatigan also admired the company’s “very assertive and strategic choice” to focus on aesthetics and neurotoxins.

“Importantly, Merz had made a move to acquire a number of product assets that aligned with that strategy and divested of the assets that didn’t align with that strategy,” he says. “I found that very very impressive.”

Rhatigan has won several industry honors over the years. He was named the Top Aesthetics CEO by Aesthetic Everything in 2017. Previous awards include Innovator in Dermatology by the Cosmetic Surgery Forum in 2013, Top 25 DTC Marketer from DTC Perspectives in 2008 and Excellence in Sales Leadership from PDI in 2004.


Rhatigan had never been to Raleigh before interviewing at Merz but says he and his wife of nearly 26 years, Judy, have enjoyed their transition from Greater San Diego to Raleigh.

“It’s been really really good,” he says. “We’ve been very happy out here.”

The couple have found plenty to enjoy in their leisure hours.

“We’ve gone to a lot of concerts since we’ve been here,” Rhatigan says. “We’ve really enjoyed exploring all of the restaurants. It seems very much like a foodie town, so that’s been a lot of fun for us. The people are very nice. We enjoy the pace of life. It seems very healthy.”

He’s also been struck by the community spirit he’s seen. “People have a lot of pride of place here,” he says. “They’re prideful to say I live in Raleigh, or I’m from Raleigh, and that’s a really good sign.”

The Rhatigans’ two sons, Brian and Casey, are grown and out of the house, so Bob and Judy have filled their empty nest in North Raleigh with three rescued Labrador retriever-mix dogs,  Cappy, Katy and Bear. “I love hanging out with our dogs,” he says.

In San Diego, where he grew up, Rhatigan was an avid fisherman who had his own boat and would go on long, offshore fishing trips. Now that he’s more landlocked in Raleigh, he says he has turned to the fields and woods for hunting deer and duck as his main hobbies until he figures out the local fishing scene.