While mentioning the emerging trend toward picking industry outsiders to lead pharma companies, Loftus focuses most of his precious word-count on one consummate insider: Kenneth Frazier, former Merck GC and now President of its Human Health businesses. Here's a snippet, from the online version of tonight's Wall Street Journal -- do go read it all:
. . . .And to bring fresh eyes to the challenges, some companies have promoted executives with experience in other industries -- notable for an industry that has often named lifers to top jobs. Novartis's Joseph Jimenez, who replaced longtime CEO Daniel Vasella, spent several years as an executive at H.J. Heinz Co.. Vasella continues as Novartis chairman; the changes were announced last week and took effect Monday.
Merck's Clark, a 38-year Merck veteran, took over the company in 2005 when its prospects were darkened by the 2004 withdrawal of pain drug Vioxx for safety reasons. Last year, he engineered a $41 billion takeover of Schering-Plough, which is intended to put the company on sounder footing.
Clark has said Merck is likely to announce a succession plan this year, but he hasn't publicly singled out potential replacements. Kenneth Frazier, president of Merck's human health unit, is widely believed to be a leading candidate. A 55-year-old attorney who joined Merck in 1992, Frazier served several years as general counsel, overseeing the defense of the Vioxx product-liability litigation that was largely resolved by a $4.85 billion settlement in 2007. . . .
Hmmm. . . rising from the internal GC position, where have we seen that before? Right. At the world's largest pure pharma -- Pfizer. [And Merck is currently No. 2, worldwide.] Frazier is already a member of the board of directors of multinational oil giant Exxon Mobil.
If Frazier were to be selected (link to give the above-image a bump), I think Merck would immediately become the largest company (measured by revenues, market capitalization and total assets) with an African American CEO. He would, I think, be only the fifth presently-sitting such CEO -- of a Fortune 500 company. [And that would be only one percent -- for those of you keeping stats, at home.] As ever, only time will tell.