Since his return, Abbott has softened the details about his educational background. Mr. Gonzalez, 58, “was a research biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine and attended the University of Houston, majoring in biochemistry, according to the company's website.
Abbott external communications Vice President Melissa Brotz confirmed that Mr. Gonzalez did not received degrees from either university.
The inaccurate information about his education was included in SEC filings as a result of an internal administrative error. Ms. Brotz declined to say exactly when Abbott learned about the errors, except to say it was “some time ago.” The company corrected the information on its website immediately after the errors were discovered, she said.
“There's really no issue here with respect to his educational background and his ability to lead AbbVie,” Ms. Brotz said. “His ability to lead AbbVie is evidenced by his distinguished career over 30 years, culminating in his reaching the highest levels of the company.”
The inaccurate information about Mr. Gonzalez's academic achievements continues to be repeated by several well-known national listings of senior corporate executives, including Reuters and Bloomberg Businessweek.
In SEC filings about the spinoff since it was announced nearly a year ago, Abbott has not included any biographical details about Mr. Gonzalez.
He is currently the executive vice president of the company's pharmaceutical products group and was hand-picked by CEO Miles White to take the top spot at AbbVie.
When spun off at the end of the year, AbbVie will take with it Humira, the blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug that in 2011 reaped nearly $8 billion in sales, or about 20 percent of the $38.9 billion Abbott posted in total revenue.
The new company will focus on on-patent pharmaceuticals, while the legacy firm, which will still be called Abbott, is expected to log about $22 billion in revenue and maintain current nutritional, medical device and branded generic business lines.
According to his online biography at Abbott's website, Mr. Gonzalez joined Abbott in 1977 and held several management positions before retiring in 2007 as president and chief operating officer, the company's No. 2 position.
Ms. Brotz says Mr. Gonzalez's website bio is now correct.
After being treated for throat cancer, he returned to the company in 2009 to oversee Abbott Ventures, the company's medical technology investment arm, and has held his current job since mid-2010.
Records show that Richard Allen Gonzalez, with a birth date consistent with Mr. Gonzalez's, attended the University of Houston from the fall of 1972 to the fall of 1973, but was not granted a degree, according to a school spokeswoman. Mr. Gonzalez's status at the University of Miami could not immediately be confirmed.