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Wednesday, December 02, 2015 9:57 am

State pioneer in orthopedics dies

Sherry Slater The Journal Gazette

Dane Miller, a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur sometimes referred to as "Mr. Biomet," died Tuesday, company officials have confirmed. He turned 69 on Saturday.

A spokesman declined to comment on cause of death.

News of Miller’s death spread quickly Tuesday. Gov. Mike Pence described Miller as a pioneer in the orthopedic industry in a statement released in the early evening.

One of four founders of Biomet Inc., Miller was CEO of the orthopedic devices manufacturer from its founding in 1977 until 2006, taking the company’s annual sales from $17,000 to more than $2 billion. 

Biomet’s workforce grew from eight to more than 6,000 worldwide under his watch as CEO. The company had almost 9,000 employees early last year.

Biomet is one of the Big Three orthopedic companies based in Warsaw. The other two are Zimmer Holdings Inc., Miller’s employer early in his career, and DePuy Synthes Cos. Kosciusko County’s orthopedic industry combined to produce a $3.7 billion impact on the economy in 2009, according to study results released in 2011. 

Miller cited communication issues with Biomet’s outside board members nearly 10 years ago for his resignation, which was described at the time as abrupt. He remained a director, however, and consulted for the company. 

In 2007, a private-equity consortium paid $11.4 billion for Biomet, a transaction that returned the company to private ownership. The private-equity group included affiliates of Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs & Co., Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group. 

Miller, who held a doctorate, partnered with the firms, regaining a stake in the company that had been trading publicly since 1982. 

The company’s timeline, which is available on its website, ends with the 2007 sale. Under that final year, the officials note that Biomet had captured 52 percent of the U.S. metal-on-metal devices market. 

Since then, significant problems have been found with some metal-on-metal implants. When the ball-and-socket parts rub against each other, metal shavings can be released, creating dangerous levels of metal in the blood. Biomet faced more than 1,200 lawsuits related to metal-on-metal devices early last year.

But that hasn’t deterred investors. Biomet is once again in the midst of an ownership change. 

Although officials in March 2014 signaled plans for a second initial public offering of stock, they accepted a $13.35 billion offer from Zimmer the following month. That deal is still pending, but Zimmer officials expect to win regulatory approval by March 31.

Jeff Binder, Biomet president and CEO, issued a statement Tuesday about the man he called "a true pioneer."

"It is impossible in one short statement to give justice to his impact on our company, on our industry, and on the communities where we operate – especially Warsaw and Winona Lake, Indiana," he said.

Miller also had a life-changing impact on Biomet employees and the rest of the orthopedics industry, Binder said. 

The former CEO fostered "an ownership culture" that turned employees into team members and "empowered them to make decisions, take reasonable risks and actively respond to the needs of" the physicians and hospitals that bought the products and their patients, Binder said.

"He once told me that the best description of Biomet’s culture was that of a ‘can-do family,’ " he said of Miller. 

Patients were the beneficiaries of Miller’s efforts to use new materials and designs in the company’s implants, Binder said. Miller’s own grandmother, Grace Shumaker, was the first recipient of a Biomet-made artificial hip, according to an article in an Indiana University publication.

Despite Biomet’s many successes, the business has suffered some significant bruises.

When federal authorities cracked down on the orthopedics industry in 2007, Biomet was among several companies that agreed to pay fines to end an antitrust investigation. 

Authorities said the companies paid orthopedic surgeons exorbitant amounts of money to be consultants and exclusively use their products. Patients and hospitals were not told of the relationships. 

Biomet’s fine, which was based on its market share, was $26.9 million.

All three Warsaw-based manufacturers issued statements that emphasized they did not admit any wrongdoing when they signed the settlement agreements. They also said the government has not alleged that patient care was ever compromised by the sales practices being investigated. 

Miller’s community activities have included serving as a director of Kosciusko Community Hospital, a member of the President’s Council for Grace College and Seminary, a board member of the Kosciusko Leadership Academy and a board member of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System, according to a Forbes magazine profile.

Pence was among those mourning Miller on Tuesday. Pence described the business leader as a giant who was one of Indiana’s most successful entrepreneurs.

"Dane Miller was also a modest man who loved his family and never lost the common touch," Pence said in a statement released by his office. "Karen and I send our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife, Mary Louise, his family, friends and all who admired this remarkable Hoosier."

Miller, who was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio, married the former Mary Louise Schilke on Feb. 19, 1966.

sslater@jg.net