Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kenneth C. Frazier, A Lawyer, To Run World's No. 2 Drugmaker

Now Merck's leadership model is in synch with Pfizer's -- where Jeff Kindler, also a lawyer, runs the show (the No. 1 public pharma co. in the world). This was widely expected, and as I reported last February, was almost certain to unfold in just this way (Pete Loftus had it this way too, back then). Per Reuters, here is some of this morning's item:

. . . .Frazier helped design a new sales model and redeployed resources to emerging markets, where the drugmaker is targeting future growth.

Frazier, who [will be added to the Merck board of directors in January 2011, is] also on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp, and served as the company's general counsel from 1999, a period that included Merck's withdrawal of Vioxx from the market because of an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

He helped the company fight off thousands of personal injury lawsuits related to the drug's use. Merck eventually settled the litigation for about $4.85 billion, billions less than investors had feared, boosting Frazier's profile within Merck and with Wall Street. . . .

I can say without reservation that this man is plainly very-well qualified for the top spot -- and he brings the right perspective to this very-highly regulated industry position.

Afterall, Merck is supposed to be in the business of saving lives -- and I can almost guarantee that no other sitting Fortune 50 company CEO has ever personally secured the unconditional release of a man sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit.

Ken Frazier has, though -- literally saving "Bo" James Cochran's life -- down in Alabama about ten years ago (see image upper right; click to enlarge). He did it all pro bono -- and on nights and weekends -- after completing his "day job", which was then to defend Merck in the Vioxx® matter.

Congrats, Ken!


Anonymous said...

I disagree with parts of your assessment. Laudatory behavior in one area does not mean that he will be a good CEO or that he engages in approrpriate behavior in other venues. Specifically in protecting life.


Condor said...

True enough, Salmon -- no one can ever really know how a person will behave, when that person thinks (rightly or wrongly) "no one is looking". On that we agree.

I must admit though, the more I read -- the better I feel (despite the Vioxx matter) -- about him.

Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek just now:

". . . .Frazier’s rise at Merck belies his unassuming roots. His mother died when he was 12, leaving his father, a janitor at United Postal Service, to raise three children alone in a North Philadelphia neighborhood. In college, he sold tadpoles and newts to a local aquarium store to make pocket money.

He is married with two children and volunteers for organizations that serve the underprivileged. . . .

The story goes on to recount the work he'd done to save Bo Cochran's life.

Having known a public-company GC who used the company's corporate jet to fly little "accessorized" dogs to various doctor's appointments (from a vacation home), over a weekend -- I would encourage you to take a new look at this Ex-GC, a man who'd willingly spend his weekends, and his own money, in an Alabama prison (on death row, no less -- not a particularly friendly place to be, as a person of color, around those guards), to save a man he'd never met before. That man he'd never met before was Bo Cochran -- who'd had the simple (then-all too-common) misfortune of being a black man, in Alabama in 1976, on a night when a white man was killed, allegedly by someone who was also black.

The contrast between an over-entitled, snivelling elitist corporate lawyer-to-the-priviledged, and this one -- could not be much more startling -- in my opinion.

All that said -- at base, I agree -- we just don't know enough, yet.