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David Stark – Stark Creative Solutions

Longtime GC wants to share what he’s learned

What do you do when you leave a place where you worked for two decades as part of a long and distinguished legal career? If you’re David Stark, you do whatever you want.  

“I’ve started a new chapter focusing on new endeavors and projects while regaining work-life balance and prioritizing becoming healthier. I believe this will make me even more effective in my future endeavors,” Stark tells Vanguard during an interview from his Long Island home in March.    

David Stark – Stark Creative Solutions

David Stark | Owner/Founder | Stark Creative Solutions

Stark is a former executive vice president and chief legal officer for Teva Pharmaceuticals. He spent about half his 21-year tenure there leading the company’s legal team through major challenges such as complex litigations and multi-billion dollar transactions. But with that part of his career in the rearview mirror, Stark is thinking about ways to share his experiences and pass down his knowledge to attorneys, both young and old, within and without the healthcare ecosystem, with a strong focus on heavily regulated industries.  

While he is open to assuming a general counsel role for a public company—he is in a place where he can be very selective—his main focus is on his new company, Stark Creative Solutions. He intends to pursue projects aligning with his passion for law and business negotiations through this venture. He is interested in serving on boards and is participating in philanthropic endeavors, such as agreeing to serve as one of the founding board members for Jinlaw, an organization of insurance professionals focused on educating the public on issues arising from the Middle East conflict. 

Beyond professional pursuits, Stark is dedicated to prioritizing his physical and mental health. He understands the importance of work-life balance and avoiding burnout, and to achieve this, he invests his energy in maintaining a robust exercise regimen and diet.  

“I see myself using this experience to collaborate with other legal executives and companies, sharing strategies and promoting a healthy lifestyle within the legal profession,” Stark says. 

Teva! Teva! Teva! 

Despite lacking experience in patent law, Stark was brought into Teva’s legal department in 2002 to manage its extensive patent litigation portfolio, which arose from a decision to invest in the burgeoning generic drug landscape in the US. He also played a pivotal role in several of the company’s multi-billion-dollar acquisitions in those early years. 

One of the most significant challenges Stark faced arose from Teva’s $40 billion purchase of Actavis Generics. That transaction required closing the most rigorous divestment process in the history of FTC clearance agreements, which took a full year to complete. (Stark quickly credits this amazing achievement to one of his colleagues who served as the point for that historic heavy lift and whom he regards today as one of his closest friends and confidantes.)  

“We were super acquisitive and were doing huge deals every few years,” Stark recalls. “I developed expertise in integration and negotiation, and that helped me throughout my time at Teva.“  

But his biggest impact on Teva, the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer, was in litigation. 

David Stark – Stark Creative Solutions

That same year that the Actavis deal closed, Stark became executive vice president and chief legal officer, giving him management responsibilities over more than 400 lawyers and oversight of a multimillion-dollar legal budget. Almost immediately after closing, the generics business in the U.S. contracted, and Teva’s flagship product went off-patent, leading to restructuring and intense focus on debt repayment. All of this happened at around the same time the prior general counsel of Teva, Stark’s mentor and close friend, became seriously ill and then passed away at a very young age. 

“We went from 400 legal department personnel to less than 250, and many of the layoffs came from my direct team,” Stark says. “But we saw to it (in some cases personally) that just about every lawyer we lost got a solid employment opportunity somewhere else.”   

Stark is extremely proud of the network of former Teva lawyers in prominent legal and business positions throughout the industry globally. 

The company, based in Israel and with its U.S. headquarters in Parsippany, New Jersey, was embroiled in several high-profile cases over the past few years that took a toll on the company’s business—and on Stark. Just before stepping aside late last year, Stark capped his career with two resolutions of major litigations that were weighing heavily on the company and its stock. The first of them was the company’s resolution of opioid claims brought by nearly every state and major municipality in the country in a multi-year process and with great collaboration from his colleagues and external counsel.. 

Then in August of last year, Stark and his team settled price-fixing charges with the Department of Justice by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement that included a $225 million criminal penalty but with extremely narrow admissions, setting the company up for success in its defense of some lingering civil litigation. 

 “These two matters were particularly intense, with some dark moments. I have had people come up to me asking me how I got through it.  My answer was always, first and foremost, that I had a terrific team with me every step of the way and great support from the executive management team, CEOs, and Board, especially the longtime chairman,” Stark explains. 

Now, Teva has a new CEO—Richard Francis joined the company in 2023—and he is enhancing the company’s focus on innovative medicine. The business is strong, as its recent earnings showed, and Stark is excited to see what Teva does in the future. He roots hard for the success of Mr. Francis and his other former colleagues. 

Showing his value 

Since leaving Teva late last year, Stark has been busy figuring out ways to use what he’s learned throughout his career to help others.  With a strong network of personal and professional connections in Israel, Stark’s ongoing efforts strengthen ties between Israel and the US and further opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange.  

“There is a real push in Israel to get back to business because the economy really suffered during the early stages of the war,” Stark says. “There are many people in Israel looking for business opportunities and emotional support to make it through extremely challenging times.” 

For all his challenges with matters involving government agencies and lawsuits, evolving from an attorney with no in-house experience to a leader of a team of hundreds was also not easy. Stark says he didn’t get into the legal profession thinking he’d become a manager of other attorneys, but he says he had a lot of support in his 21 years at Teva that turned him into who he is today.  

David Stark – Stark Creative Solutions

“Early in my career, the head of HR in the U.S. took me aside and talked to me about leadership,” Starks remembers. “But it was hard because one day, people were peers, and the next day, I was their boss.” 

Over the years, Starks says he’s had some great mentors, and he is excited about the prospect of having more time to devote to mentorship now that he’s not a full-time chief legal officer for a global pharmaceutical behemoth.  

“I got to experience all the highs and the lows. Every day was busy and never not interesting,” Stark says. “And I learned that 90 percent of success is about showing up on time and not acting like a jerk. It’s also absolutely crucial to be authentic. I was fortunate to have some extremely bright people around me who enabled me to be myself, warts and all. 

Finding his place 

Despite his illustrious career, law school wasn’t always the focus for Stark. He earned a political science degree from Northeastern University in Boston. While in college, he interned for Sen. Ted Kennedy in Washington, D.C., and met a lot of smart people. Kennedy was known for having the largest staff in Congress, and Stark says he picked the brains of as many as he could while there.  

After earning a J.D. from the New York University School of Law, Stark worked for a maritime law firm doing a lot of arbitration, leading him to a litigator job for Wilkie Farr & Gallagher. He got a lot of good experience working in the firm’s litigation department—one client was Teva, and Starks built a relationship with the company’s U.S. general counsel while handling antitrust matters. 

David Stark – Stark Creative Solutions

“One of the firm’s litigation partners took me under their wing, and Teva was looking for people because its patent portfolio was exploding,” Starks says. “About 10 years later, I managed more complex patent litigation than anyone. Fortunately, I hired some amazing patent help early on, and she later became chief patent counsel for Teva globally. I could not have done it without her.” 

Fast-forward to now, and you’ll find Stark living a healthier life with the work-life balance he has sought for years. He looks back on a time when he had poor eating habits and was canceling doctor’s appointments because he didn’t want to face the music.  

“I wasn’t healthy, and I knew I had to change it,” he says. 

Now, Stark can enjoy time with his wife and three teenagers, two of whom are off to college in the fall. They spend time on their boat on Long Island Sound in the summer and like to travel as much as possible. Starks gets a good night’s sleep and says he’s feeling significantly better and has more energy and strength.  

“And I can bend down without worrying that I’m going to hurt myself,” he says with a laugh. “I’m still relatively young with lots of energy  and still have much to offer the legal profession.” 

Published on: June 6, 2024

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