Jennifer Archibald

Forty Under 40 winner 2014:  CFO, Cardiome Pharma Corp., 39

When Jennifer Archibald was hired into the finance department at Cardiome Pharma Corp. in 2006, it was to help the company grow.

And when she was asked six years later to step into the chief financial officer’s role, it was to help it shrink.

Two years after Cardiome experienced a near-death experience, the biotech is back in growth mode, and Archibald is being credited for having no small part in bringing the company back from the brink.

“At the time, two years ago, we’re down to probably under $20 million in market cap,” Archibald said. “We’re at about $150 million now. We have two products that are selling worldwide in over 60 countries.”

Born in Hong Kong, Archibald came to Canada when she was eight with her older sister to live with their grandparents in Edmonton, while her parents remained in Hong Kong. When she was 11, she and her sister moved to Vancouver to live with family friends. Growing up without her parents forced her to become self-reliant.

“I’m a fairly independent and strong person. I think a lot of that does come from my childhood. If you have a problem you have to solve it yourself.”

After high school, she earned a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia and articled for KPMG, where she got a full-time job after she graduated. She was then recruited by the Jim Pattison Group to manage the company’s accounting department.

In 2006, she was invited to come work for Cardiome. At its peak, Cardiome had 80 employees and had been valued at $800 million, thanks to a development deal the company had struck with Merck and Co. Inc.

But in 2012, Merck withdrew from the deal, driving Cardiome close to bankruptcy. Mass layoffs shrank the company from 80 to eight, its valuation fell to $15 million, the company’s stock sank to $0.24 per share and Cardiome faced delisting on the Nasdaq.

Archibald was asked to step in as CFO. Over a two-year period, she was instrumental in completing a debt restructuring, a massive downsizing and the acquisition of another company – all while being a mom to two young children, aged six and four.

“I can say that very few CFOs can claim to have successfully completed this range of transactions over the course of two years … much less doing it in the first two years of a career as a public company CFO,” said Cardiome CEO Bill Hunter.