A rising pharma star's Executive Dream Team

July 6, 2012: 9:27 AM ET

Novartis' Jeff George discusses the logic behind his fantasy executive dream team picks.

FORTUNE -- Jeff George is the global head of Sandoz, the $9 billion generics division of Novartis. The 38-year-old is also a Novartis executive committee member and was No. 9 on Fortune's 40 Under 40 list last year. George's father, Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George, is an option in Fortune's Fantasy Sports Executive League game as a utility player. Before joining Novartis, Jeff George was a manager at McKinsey and then ran strategic planning and business development at a division of Gap Inc. His management chops in retail and pharma make him an ideal "expert" for the Fortune Fantasy Sports Executive League (Anyone can play, and scoring depends, in part, on how closely the player's picks match those of experts like George.)

George shared his team with Fortune's Daniel Roberts, along with the logic behind his picks.

Jeff George: My default plan was picking the best person in each spot, but I did also try to give it a team lens and think about how they'd work together as a team.

The CEO, I debated this one quite a bit. Ultimately, I elected to go with Howard Schultz. While his background is more entrepreneurial than corporate, he's a visionary and a transformational, inspiring leader. And he's put the customer at the center of the whole experience. I also thought he'd be a really good leader; he seems like a guy who can coach an all-star team and get the best out of people.

MORE: Field your very own Fortune Fantasy Executive Dream Team 

Rex Tillerson at Exxon (XOM) was a close second for me, for the massive scale of the company he runs, and because he has a reputation as an outstanding operator. The other guy I considered was Jeff Bezos at Amazon (AMZN), who has exceeded everyone's expectations. By the way, if Alan Mulally from Ford (F) had been an option here, I would have chosen him.

COO was an easier choice for me: I went with Sheryl Sandberg. I think she has brought the operational and analytical rigor to Facebook (FB) and it's been instrumental in driving their growth. Without her leadership as a complement to Zuckerberg's vision, I'm not sure Facebook would be where it is today.

At CFO, I went with David Viniar at Goldman Sachs (GS). I think for all the heat Goldman has taken in the aftermath of the crisis, he is a highly skilled, tough CFO. He was able to have Goldman come out on the other side of the crisis in much better shape than many of its peers. My sense is he was a key partner to Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn. I'm also impressed with Patrick Pichette at Google (GOOG), but I don't know his track record as well.

At CMO, this was an exciting choice to make, and I was delighted Ron Johnson was one of the choices. There is no question he's who I would pick. If you look at what he did at Target pioneering its 'cheap chic' design, and then what he did next at Apple (AAPL), developing the retail stores, it's amazing. I spent time with him one-on-one when he was at Apple, and he was brilliant. And even though he's yet unproven as a CEO, he is gold as a CMO, and my gut tells me JC Penney (JCP) will be successful with him at the helm.

CIO was another tough one. I'm really impressed with what Cadir Lee has done at Zynga (ZNGA) alongside Mark Pincus, who I used to play soccer with in San Francisco. But, ultimately, I had to go with Rob Carter. IT is central to FedEx's (FDX) mission as a company and everything they do around logistics. To me, his skills are the most transferable to any company, so he's the person you'd want for a Dream Team.

Click to choose your own Executive Dream Team.

Click to choose your own Executive Dream Team.

Chief strategist was one I had to think about for a while. I'm very impressed with Larry Ellison's track record and what he's done as a strategist, but I had to think about the team element. Azim Premji is really a pioneer of the modern Indian multinational, and he's someone who's consistently shown great wisdom over many decades at the head of one of India's biggest companies. I thought about Jennifer Li at Baidu; she's an interesting candidate and China is obviously going to be so important in the near future, plus she has a great reputation. But on the other hand, India's going to be a big driver of world growth too, and Premji founded Wipro (WIT). He would just bring such seniority and wisdom.

The design spot was an easier choice for me, even though I was at Harvard Business School when Dean Kamen was first coming out with the Segway; he came and spoke to our class, and he's a really inspiring visionary and technical thinker, and someone who has delivered on great products. And I look at James Dyson and I'm very impressed with his track record as well. But I would go with Jony Ive. There's just no comparison. He deserves a lot of the credit for the clean simplicity of Apple's great products. Jobs deserves a lot of the credit too, but Ive's is a name you don't hear about enough.

At utility, I'm impressed with Carlos Brito, I'm really impressed with Reid Hoffman's vision and what he's done with LinkedIn (LNKD) -- he's also someone who's been instrumental in Internet 2.0 and I think he's the go-to person for young tech leaders in the valley. But I ultimately decided to go with Lou Gerstner. His turnaround at IBM (IBM), which I remember reading about, was just awesome. I think I'd want a guy like him on any team. He seems like he's now at a stage in his career at Carlyle where he can be a thought advisor and doesn't need to run the entire show himself.

For my chairman, I'll be honest, a couple of these people I would have liked to have as candidates for CEO. But this was one of the hardest categories. I debated between AG Lafley, Anne Mulcahy, and Sam Palmisano, all of whom I have a lot of respect for. Initially I was thinking of Anne Mulcahy because she's a high-capability leader, did so well at Xerox (XRX), but hey, she won last year! So I ended up with Sam Palmisano. He filled big shoes for Lou Gerstner, and I think he's done an incredible job at turning IBM's top people into global leaders. And at the same time, he's a really good businessman. I think The Street maybe didn't believe him in the first few years when he gave his long-term forecast, but if you look at his tenure, the company has performed tremendously. So I thought about someone who would have the wisdom to guide a company. And, frankly, Gerstner could be a great chairman as well.

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