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Cardinal Health celebrates 50th anniversary, launches year of service


Cardinal Health celebrates 50th anniversary by ringing opening bell at NYSE, January 7, 2021.

Today starts a year of celebration at Cardinal Health as the company marks its 50th anniversary and kicks off a year of giving back.

Robert D. Walter was only 25 years old and fresh out of Harvard Business School when he decided to pave his own path. Walter founded the company in 1971 with the purchase of a small grocery wholesaler called Monarch Foods in Columbus, Ohio. He eventually changed the name to Cardinal Foods, in honor of Ohio’s state bird and the mascot of his high school.

After more than 10 years of growth in food distribution, Walter pivoted to pharmaceutical distribution and purchased Bailey Drug in Zanesville, Ohio. That was the first in a series of acquisitions of pharmaceutical distributors that eventually led to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1983.

In 1990, Mike Kaufmann, now the Chief Executive Officer of Cardinal Health, joined Walter’s growing team, and then in 1994, the business changed its name to Cardinal Health.

“I have had the great fortune of knowing and working with Bob Walter for 30 years,” Kaufmann said. “He has helped make the company what it is today – a pharmaceutical distributor, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and lab products and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Bob also taught me a great deal as a leader – and continues to do so.”

Since its inception, Cardinal Health has continually evolved to meet healthcare’s changing needs. But one thing that has remained constant is a deep commitment to its customers, partners, employees and communities.

“It is a privilege to be with Cardinal Health today,” Kaufmann said. “We continue to adapt and innovate through a dynamic environment, building upon our scale and heritage in distribution with products and solutions to serve our customers and their patients – now and into the future.”

Walter said, “We built the company on a sustainable foundation – doing business the right way. Not a day goes by that I don’t see evidence of the good work that Cardinal Health does for its customers, partners, employees and communities.” 

Kaufmann added, “To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we’re building on that spirit of humanity, and launching a year of service for Cardinal Health employees around the world. Our employees are passionate about giving back, and this year, we’re setting the goal of giving at least 50,000 hours, collectively, of volunteer service in 2021.”

Throughout the year, employees will support causes that mean the most to them across four areas, one for each quarter of the year: equity, our environment, health and hunger.

“We’re purposefully beginning the year with equity-focused service,” Kaufmann said. “Diversity, inclusion and equity are core to who we are at Cardinal Health – we firmly believe that ‘as you are is just right for us.’ This year, we’ll celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday in the U.S. for the first time. We’re encouraging employees to honor Dr. King’s memory through volunteer service.”

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, Cardinal Health is focused on improving outcomes – for customers, partners, employees and communities. “As we collectively navigate the pandemic, we are dedicated to continuing to fulfill our critical role in the healthcare supply chain, as we work to become healthcare’s most trusted partner,” Kaufmann said.

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Celebrating 50 years of excellence

1971: Our founder, Robert D. Walter, purchases Monarch Foods, to start a grocery distribution company he calls Cardinal Foods.

1980: Cardinal Foods buys Bailey Drug Company, and becomes Cardinal Distribution, Inc.

1983: Early success in pharmaceutical distribution leads to an initial public offering, with common stock trading on NASDAQ at $1.03 per share.

1994: Cardinal Distribution becomes Cardinal Health, Inc.

1999: Cardinal Health acquires the Allegiance Corporation, a maker of drapes, gowns, gloves and other hospital supplies.

2003: Cardinal Health acquires Syncor International, making us a leading provider of nuclear pharmacy services in the U.S.

2010: Cardinal Health buys Kinray, greatly expanding our retail independent presence in the northeast U.S.

2013: Cardinal Health acquires Wavemark, giving us Cardinal Inventory Manager, and pushing us forward into the services market. We acquire AssuraMed, a business that becomes Cardinal Health at Home, which places us in the direct-to-patient space.

2015: Cardinal Health acquires Cordis, which provides leading interventional vascular technology and a strong global footprint. We also acquire Metro Medical, expanding our Specialty Distribution business.

2017: Cardinal Health buys Medtronic’s Patient Recovery business, diversifying and increasing the depth of our medical products portfolio.

2021: Cardinal Health celebrates our 50th anniversary with a year of service. In the U.S. alone, we serve more than 29,000 pharmacies and more than 10,000 specialty physician offices and clinics. We work with more than 4,500 sourcing and manufacturing partners throughout the healthcare supply chain to support patients across the continuum of care. We serve more than 3.4 million U.S. patients directly with more than 46,000 home healthcare products, and our medical and pharmaceutical products and services are in nearly 90% of U.S. hospitals.

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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.