James A. Cusumano has achieved success on a variety of levels by following his dreams. A doo-wop musician turned research-and-development executive at Exxon and later founder of the multifaceted Catalytica Inc., Cusumano has pursued an exciting career that continues to expand in new directions. He is also the creator of Chateau Wally Films and is currently chairman of Chateau Mcely, a hotel and executive retreat center near Prague, Czech Republic.
Before and during his Rutgers days, the multitalented Cusumano enjoyed the area’s music scene. He entertained audiences as a singer and keyboard player and worked with pioneers of the rock and roll movement. His enthusiasm for science and innovation grew at Rutgers, where he received a B.A. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry. He then studied business at Harvard and Stanford and was a Foreign Fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University. Following these educational pursuits, he joined Exxon, where he soon became director of catalytic research and development. He and his team worked on fundamental and applied research projects in petroleum and petrochemical processing, fuel cells, synthetic fuels, and emissions control.
He left Exxon to found Catalytica Inc., a publicly traded company that included two key business units: Catalytica Energy Systems Inc., a leader in the development of clean power generation, and Catalytica Pharmaceuticals Inc., which developed clean, low-cost pharmaceutical process technologies and manufactured more than 50 prescription drugs and numerous over-the-counter drugs. Under Cusumano’s leadership, Catalytica Pharmaceuticals quickly grew from four to 2,000 employees with annual sales of more than $500 million and a market value of nearly $1 billion. Cusumano retired as chairman and CEO shortly before the company was sold to DSM Pharmaceuticals in Holland.
In 2000, Cusumano returned to his entertainment roots. He founded the production company Chateau Wally Films and produced What Matters Most in order to fulfill his late wife’s dreams as she struggled with a terminal illness. The award-winning feature film has since been distributed on the Lifetime network and in more than 45 countries.
Cusumano later began working on the renovation and operation of Chateau Mcely, a historic castle near Prague, Czech Republic, that opened in 2006 as a holistic executive retreat and five-star hotel and spa. In 2008, Chateau Mcely was voted the “World’s Leading Green Hotel” by the World Travel Awards. Cusumano has also created Leadership for Life, a program that brings international thought leaders to Prague and Chateau Mcely to study important issues such as climate change, energy security, and leadership.