Before reading into the fact that Fred Eshelman is suing for the return of the millions ($2.5m) he donated to the pro-Trump group, True the Vote, it should be well-pronounced that he is a giver. In fact, he’s donated around $140 million to the pharmacy school at the University of North Caroline (UNC), Chapel Hill, which is, of course, named after him. Only one of the investments was worthy.
Taking aside his support for President Trump (on the contrary, Eshelman doesn’t like golf), there’s much to one of the richest elites in North Carolina. Building a pharmaceutical empire from being a one-man consulting firm takes what he’s got. And he’s dealt with billions on several occasions.
Like many private businessmen, Eshelman has been reluctant to reveal his net worth. But he’s always investing in companies worth billions in the $25 billion industry, actually starting a lot of them. With numerous honors to his name and a Dassault Falcon 2000LX, here’s what is known about his wealth and the sources.
Fred Eshelman’s Net Worth Estimation
Back in late 2014, Forbes estimated that he was worth at least $380 million, the same year he sold his drug development company, Furiex Pharmaceuticals, gaining $270 million himself. At the time, he was titled a multi-millionaire. But with the deals he makes and the way he could splash out $100 million for a single donation, it’s not crazy to assume he’s a billionaire as well. Especially considering the tax cuts large-scale businessmen have gotten in the last four years.
His billionaire status is yet to be confirmed.
Photo Source: Eshelman Ventures, LLC.
However, there is also the case for his desire to not exceed his net worth to more than a billion (possibly to avoid the press billionaires often get). He says he will never want to stop what he is doing, despite the urges from his wife. Hunting is his favorite sport. He’s seriously caught a mountain lion.
The biggest source of his income, regardless of the amount, was his fascination with medicines as a teenager. After completing his school, with a degree in pharmaceutical sciences from UNC  and a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati, he founded the pharmaceutical consulting firm in his Maryland home in 1985.
Despite not the intention, it picked up fast and became Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) in 1989. It went from Eshelman as the only employee to as much as 15,000 employees in 50 countries. He later moved it to Wilmington to get away from DC and took it public (Wall Street, of course) in 1996, serving as the CEO until 2009.
He was then named the executive chairman before it was taken private in a $3.9 billion deal with affiliates of The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman in 2011, get this, for cash. Forbes reported he made $160 million from the sale after taxes, at least. Meanwhile, The Business Journals provides his ownership at PPD at 7.8%, according to a public filing made before the sale, estimating his stake at above $300 million.
Now, It’s Just Investment, Investment, Investment
Eshelman’s next business venture came while at the PPD itself. He expanded with the drug development company, Furiex Pharmaceuticals, in 2009, around the time he stepped down from being the CEO of PPD. Furiex was developing a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It was sold to Forest Labs & Actavis in July 2014 for a reported $1.46 billion.
Eshelman has chosen to remain private when it comes to his net worth.
Photo Source: The Business Journals
The 71-year-old is said to have gained somewhere from $270 million to $350 million from the deal. But he wasn’t retiring with that money. He just loves to work. Apart from pledging about one-third of the earnings to UNC, he launched his own Eshelman Ventures in 2015 to invest in the pharmaceutical and related industry. He’d already invested in a lot of the start-ups generated by UNC’s pharmacy school.
With Eshelman Ventures, he’s invested in companies like G1 Therapeutics, Innocrin Pharmaceuticals and BioTherapy Inc., to name a few. Previously, he was the senior vice president of development & a board member of Glaxo, Inc., and had more management positions at Beecham Laboratories & Boehringer Mannheim Pharmaceuticals.
UNC Is Eshelman’s Favorite Donation Dropbox
While Eshelman’s contribution to Trump’s idea of overturning the election results went for nothing, he has made a significant donation to the pharmaceutical industry itself, particularly in North Carolina, and specifically to the University of North Carolina. There’s also an argument that “no other single person has impacted the North Carolina pharmaceutical industry more than Fred Eshelman”.
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) December 4, 2014
Eshelman gifted UNC’s pharmacy school $9 million for cancer research, $3 million to back a drug-discovery center and $20 million for scholarships, faculty development & residency programs in 2003. And then, in 2014, he splashed out the largest donation from a single person, $100 million, for the university, all to foster innovation with the Eshelman Institute for Innovation. In return, he was honored with the name of UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 2008.
Additionally, he is the chairman of the board of visitors at the school, having served on the executive committee of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, the board of trustees for UNC-W and the UNC Board of Governors (for the NC Biotechnology Center as well) through 2011-2014, appointed by the NC General Assembly.
When it comes to donation and the business itself, he’s had competition with Dennis Gillings, the founder of Quintiles, but it’s only from the point of view of the outside world. Gillings also donated $50 million to UNC in 2007. Meanwhile, Eshelman has also invested in start-ups from Duke, the University of Virginia and Emory.
Photo Source: WilmingtonBiz
He also got his own foundation, the Eshelman Foundation, since 2008, of which his daughter, Kimberly Eshelman Batten, is the executive director. They’ve given millions to non-profits that address children’s health and educational needs.
In the end, Eshelman’s got it all. And he’s not planning on just sitting out the rest of his life in his 75,000-acre estate in Wyoming. And the aforementioned jet worth $20 million. Woo!