Merck & Co. moved ahead with its anticipated change in leadership, naming Kenneth Frazier CEO to succeed retiring Richard Clark as of Jan. 1.
Frazier to succeed Clark as Merck CEO
Frazier is currently Merck's president and a member of the board of directors. Clark has been CEO since 2005 and will remain chairman of the board. His retirement was expected in 2011 as company rules require the CEO to retire at age 65.
In April, Frazier, 55, was promoted to his current position of president from head of global sales, making him the likeliest candidate to become CEO. Frazier had been generally praised as the company's general counsel for successfully handling the lawsuits that followed when Vioxx was pulled from the market because the painkiller doubled the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
Frazier had initially elected to fight the lawsuits in 2004 when the drug was withdrawn from the market. After winning initial individual trials, the company settled nearly all the cases for a total $4.85 billion — well below what analysts had estimated as Merck's liability.
The management change comes a year after Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck bought Schering-Plough Corp. for $41 billion, giving the company the allergy drugs Nasonex and Clarinex along with animal health products, consumer health products, and a biotech division.
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