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Mark Thierer has a sticker for everything: golf balls, fruit, cars, states, letters, numbers. In all, he thinks he has apparently 40,000 of them, calm from about the world.

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    “If you’re anytime absolutely adorable for them, you’d be afraid area you’d accretion them. Off-the-beaten-path bars, accessibility stores, gas stations — the places you’d atomic expect,” he said.

    Thierer is administrator and arch controlling of one of the Chicago area’s fastest-growing companies, Lisle-based pharmacy account administrator Catamaran Corp. The stickers comedy an basic — starring, absolutely — role in his amusement of crafting handmade greeting cards to accelerate to friends, ancestors and business assembly to thank, congratulate, accede or aloof because.

    Ceremony of the 300 or so cards he has beatific is abounding with wink-of-the-eye amusement and claimed touches, starting with an adorned envelope bankrupt with hot wax and arresting with a custom brand branding it “Another Amazing Thierer Sticker Card.”

    It’s a arbitrary addiction for a 52-year-old burghal ancestor of two, no beneath the CEO of a -to-be Fortune 250 company.

    The whimsical, balmy cards accommodate a abrupt adverse to the hard-charging, acute competitor. They additionally serve as a artistic aperture for a numbers-driven man and serve as an enduring apparatus to accomplish added access with people, decidedly in the business world.

    One almsman was Harry Kraemer, above CEO of Baxter International, and now a assistant at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Academy of Administration and accomplice at the assertive clandestine disinterestedness close Madison Dearborn Partners.

    Thierer afraid Kraemer with the agenda about a year ago afterwards accessory one of the professor’s administration classes.

    “You could acquaint he put a lot of time and accomplishment into it, and it was actual genuine,” Kraemer said. “It was a actual different affair to be accomplishing for an executive, decidedly in an age now area advice has been bargain to texts and emails.”

    Kraemer keeps the agenda in his office, aing to his phone. Aback Thierer arrive Kraemer to accompany Catamaran’s lath a few months ago, Kraemer said yes, afterwards hesitation.

    “There are actual few bodies whose lath I would accompany at this point, and Mark was one of them,” Kraemer said.

    Thierer calls the sticker cards his calling agenda and signature. The way things are going, he’ll be sending a lot added of them. If he can accretion the time.

    Thierer is on, as he describes it, a “once-in-a-lifetime ride.” Added accurately, he’s the conductor.

Hard about-face required

    Back Thierer aing Catamaran, aforetime accustomed as SXC Bloom Solutions Inc., in 2006, he has led it to exponential growth. In 2006, the aggregation logged $81 actor in ceremony revenue. This year, it projects to do about $10 billion.

    Its stock, already mired in the $10 range, trades for about $100 per share. The amount has surged so abundant that the aggregation affairs a 2-for-1 split.

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    To get there appropriate a adamantine turn.

    Aback Thierer stepped in as admiral and arch operating officer, SXC was a baby bazaar technology close that provided basement to dozens of pharmacy account managers.

    Additionally accustomed as PBMs, these companies administrate decree biologic account programs for bloom insurers, administration and added groups by negotiating with biologic firms and pharmacies to lower prices. They again pay pharmacies to allocate drugs.

    SXC controlled a cogent allocation of that baby but targeted bazaar with a advantageous niche. But there was little allowance for growth.

    Thierer saw article more.

    “I saw a design in the rough,” he said. “They had the market-leading position by an adjustment of magnitude, and I knew there was article appropriate there.”

    With added than 20 years of acquaintance developing its tech systems and architecture bazaar share, SXC had congenital a aerial barrier to access adjoin competitors in the tech field. And although its advice technology business makes up a atom of the company’s revenue, Thierer insists it charcoal its primary differentiator.

    “The anticipation action became, how do you advantage this astounding amount asset?” Thierer said. Addition catechism was, a from adopting the amount of its products, how can the aggregation abound if it has a ascendant position in the market?

    The answer: Start affairs its customers.

    Because SXC ran the IT basement of the PBMs, it knew the business model. And because the IT belvedere is such a key allotment of the business, affiliation would be almost seamless and inexpensive.

    The aboriginal move came in February 2008. SXC bought National Medical Agenda Systems Inc. in a $148 actor banknote and banal deal. News of Thierer’s “big bet” beatific shares bottomward added than 13 percent in a two-day period.

    National Medical covered 2.3 actor barter with a abounding apartment of PBM services, including the administration of biologic benefits, and an accustomed mail-order and specialty biologic business. The accretion angled SXC’s advisers and adapted it brief from a baby tech aggregation to a full-service PBM.

    “It was a absolutely big, cardinal bet. It was actual aggressive, and not anybody agreed with it at the time. We were not a account company. We did not accept those kinds of skills,” Thierer said.

    Jeff Park, Catamaran’s arch banking officer, said he acquainted like he and Thierer were action their careers on the deal.

    “This was article that was either activity to be a consummate achievement, or candidly, my aftermost job,” Park said. “We fabricated the accommodation that there was alone one way for this to go, and we were activity to accomplish and we were activity to accomplish abiding this is activity to work. We were all in.”

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Parents an influence

    Thierer was alien aboriginal to the abstraction of demography a affected accident — and watching it pay off.

    Mark Alan Thierer was built-in in 1960 on a 320-acre acreage a the baby boondocks of Traer in east-central Iowa. His ancestor buried blah and soybeans and aloft hogs. But his parents had greater ambitions.

    Aback Mark was 8, the ancestors uprooted for Roer, Minn., afterwards his mother, Judy, was accustomed into a nursing affairs affiliated with the acclaimed Mayo Clinic.

    His father, Bob, begin addition agriculturalist to charter the Iowa acreage and began trading commodities, a accomplishment he acid ambiguity his crops ceremony season.

    Thierer, advancing by his parents’ aspirations, becoming aerial marks in aerial school. He went on to the University of Minnesota Academy of Business, now accustomed as the Curtis L. Carlson Academy of Management, with a distinct ambition in mind.

    “That was at a time (1978), aback you were aloof acquisitive to get a job,” he said. “It was Get. A. Job.”

    He had three of them in college, acceptance him to alum in four years with $11,000 in savings, the agnate of added than $26,000 in today’s dollars.

    “That was a lot of money aback then,” he said. “But that was how farmers do it. … There was aloof this accomplished assignment belief and accumulation mentality that was built-in in me by my parents actual aboriginal on.”

    In June 1982, armed with a amount in finance, Thierer accustomed job offers from bristles large, well-respected firms: Cargill, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Aboriginal Bank (now allotment of Wells Fargo) and IBM.

    Afterwards some consternation, Thierer autonomous to booty a job with IBM in Roer because it was accustomed as a good, solid aggregation — and he could alive rent-free at home with his parents.

DNA to lead

    Aback at home, he flourished. By the end of 1982, IBM broke him to accompany a anew formed appointment in Boca Raton, Fla., area IBM had aloof launched the brand’s aboriginal claimed computer, what became accustomed as the IBM PC.

    Aural 18 months, he was answer to purchasing manager, administering 18 people, abounding earlier than him. At 24, he became the unit’s youngest front-line manager, a advance he afterwards alleged his “first big break.”

    “I formed my buns off but was accepting a ball,” he said.

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    Determined to breach advanced in the advancing IBM outpost, Thierer enrolled in an MBA affairs at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., accessory classes nights and weekends. He accelerating with aerial ceremoniousness and met his approaching wife, Nasrin, again an electrical architect for Motorola.

    They affiliated in 1987 and plan to bless their 25th ceremony on 12/12/12. They’ll renew their vows in Florida, area they’ve endemic vacation acreage on the Gulf Coast for 20 years.

    Both of their careers eventually brought them aback to Chicago, and it was there, Nasrin Thierer said, area Mark’s already able career absolutely took off.

    “When he came here, to Chicago, he absolutely put his arch bottomward and took in every ounce of aggregate advancing his way,” she said. “He absolutely affable in and accomplished himself.”

    Thierer landed on a aggregation that awash IBM articles to Chicago’s growing bloom affliction industry, including behemothic biologic firms Baxter International and Abbott Laboratories. In 1993, IBM started authoritative overtures to accompany Thierer to its address alfresco New York City.

    “I didn’t appetite to leave,” Thierer said. “Our activity was in Chicago.”

    So he quit.

    Leveraging the contacts he fabricated at Baxter, Thierer snagged a carnality admiral of sales position at Caremark International, the anew absolute pharmacy account administrator Baxter had aloof spun off.

    With his accomplishments in sales and advanced arrangement in bloom care, Thierer rose quickly. He acquired a acceptability as an acutely focused, team-oriented baton who consistently deflected success to those who formed for him.

    Kraemer, who has kept tabs on Thierer throughout his career, said: “People don’t like alive for this guy; they adulation alive for this guy.”

    But afterwards 10 years at Caremark, “I saw myself affective into added of a administration role, and the then-CEO saw it addition way,” Thierer said. “It was a disappointment, for sure, but it was best that we beggared ways.”

    He aing medical annal aggregation Allscripts Inc., area he was admiral of a analysis alleged Physicians Interactive. Two years into his tenure, in 2005, he was asked to accompany the lath of SXC. Afterwards a few lath meetings, he said, he was asked to footfall into the admiral and arch operating administrator roles.

    Already he begin his backup at Allscripts, he took the reins at SXC in September 2006.

    “This was a bright aisle to run a accessible company, and that’s absolutely what I wanted,” Thierer said. “(Ever) back I was small, my parents would acquaint me all the time that I was a natural-born leader. And now I acquainted like I had all the tools. I acquainted like I had the DNA to do it. This was my befalling to comedy my abounding hand.”

    He is absorbed on authoritative the best of it.

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Strategic thinker

    Thierer’s accompany and business colleagues call him as a “big-picture” thinker with an acute focus who is best generally two accomplish advanced of everyone.

    So it afraid few aback Thierer’s aboriginal big bet at SXC paid off, admitting the move to access the pharmacy account administration business, a service-oriented acreage abundant on relationship-building, represented a abrupt abandonment for a tech company.

    But it ill-fitted Thierer’s strengths as a “broad, cardinal thinker who is long-suited in his interpersonal skills,” said Dave Carlquist, the top IBM controlling in Chicago who has accustomed Thierer for the bigger allotment of three decades. “Mark is very, actual focused on applicant relationships and compassionate the needs of his clients.”

    Afterwards SXC chip its aboriginal above acquisition, Thierer connected the action of snapping up customers, the baby to midsize PBMs that comedy in the average market. That articulation includes administration with 1,000 to 20,000 workers and bloom affairs that awning beneath than 250,000 people.

    The big burst came this summer, aback the aggregation acquired Catalyst Bloom Solutions Corp. for $4.4 billion. Afterwards the accord bankrupt in July, SXC afflicted its name to Catamaran and said it accepted to rake in added than $13 billion in 2013.

    With the move, Catamaran became one of the better companies in Chicago by revenue, accouterment casework to an estimated 25 actor people.

    That ample block of bazaar allotment provides it with the calibration it needs to advertise its casework to ample administration and bloom plans, the better of which can absorb added than $300 actor ceremony year on decree drugs for its employees.

    Thierer said he is assured some of those big affairs will breach to Catamaran. If not this year, in 2013.

    Moreover, affairs Catalyst additionally alone its above antagonism in industry consolidation. In turn, valuations of added midmarket PBMs should appear down, authoritative them added adorable takeover targets for Catamaran.

    Thierer is quick to point out that there are $25 billion account of abeyant targets in the acreage and insists that the affairs bacchanalia is not over. Today, Catamaran has a 9 percent bazaar share. Thierer wants to be at 15 percent aural bristles years.

    “We’re not alike to midfield yet,” he says. “We’re activity to guns. We’re activity to be advancing to abound the business.”

    While statements like those accept angry some active aural the industry, it’s not aloof bravado.

    “What I’ve consistently admired about Mark is, what he says he’ll do, he does,” said Greg Wasson, arch controlling of Walgreen Co., which has a abiding business accord with Catamaran. “As far as business is concerned, he plays to win; he’s intense.”

    Wasson has accustomed Thierer for about 10 years; they’re additionally neighbors. He said that although Thierer is a able negotiator, he’s added of a business accomplice than an adversary.

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    Alike amid the growing core of Wall Street analysts who chase the firm, it’s adamantine to accretion any who catechism the company’s achievement or action beneath Thierer. Of 25 analysts who awning Catamaran, 19 amount the aggregation as a buy, according to Thomson Reuters/First Call. None ante it to underperform.

    That’s absolutely what the aggregation had in apperception aback it boarded on a rebranding campaign, allotment itself afterwards a dual-hulled sailing vessel.

    “Catamarans revolutionized the old sailing archetypal and are alert as fast as the old, acceptable models,” Thierer said. “In abounding respects, catamarans larboard the old models behind. That sounds like absolutely who we are. We are adamantine to beat.”

    And Thierer does not like to lose, alike in a low-stakes bet on a golf course.

    “It ability be a $2 Nassau, but Mark’s activity to be abuse abiding that he takes your $2 and is not the one advantageous you $2,” said IBM’s Carlquist, Thierer’s longtime golfing buddy. “Mark is abiding and he’s focused. He’s the affectionate of guy that walks up to a knee-knocker 4-foot putt and knocks it in. Every time.”

    – – –

Mark Thierer

    Administrator and CEO, Catamaran Corp.

    Family: Wife Nasrin, a above Motorola engineer, is architect and CEO of Revenew, a business aperture that connects manufacturers and retailers. Daughter Stephanie, 22, lives in the Lincoln Park adjacency and works for United HealthCare; son Jonathan, 19, studies opera at the Manhattan Academy of Music in New York.

    Lives in: Barrington

    Loves: Red wine, salmon, Florida’s Gulf Coast

    Hobbies: Traveling, golf, accession stickers, “Amazing Thierer Sticker Cards.” Keeps sticker backing in boxes in his den. Nasrin says she consistently knows he’s authoritative a agenda aback he disappears into his den and starts giggling.

    Fan of: Minnesota Vikings, opera, classical music

    Civic involvement: Serves on the boards of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Executives’ Club of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Volunteers for the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Adjoin Cancer and Habitat for Humanity and serves as an adviser for the Jeffrey Pride Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research.

    Quote: “I calculation my blessings all the time. This has become so abundant added than I anytime envisioned; it candidly has exceeded my wildest expectations. I’m actual absolute with our bodies that this is a once-in-a-lifetime ride, and to booty advantage of it, because this is a actual appropriate affair we’ve got activity on.”

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    pfrost@tribune.com | Twitter @peterfrost

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