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Merck says Kenneth Frazier to retire as CEO efficient June 30

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Ken Frazier, Chairman and CEO, Merck & Co., speaks during a meeting of the Economic Club of New York, October 3, 2018.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The outspoken CEO of Merck, Ken Frazier, is retiring from the company effective June 30 after almost 30 years at the drugmaker, Merck announced on Thursday.

Frazier, 66, will be replaced by the company’s CFO Robert Davis and will continue to serve on Merck’s board of directors as executive chairman “for a transition period to be determined by the board,” the company said in a statement. Frazier, one of the few Black corporate leaders in the United States, has served has Merck’s chief since January 2011.

“It has been a privilege to serve as Merck’s CEO for the past decade and to work with the most dedicated and talented employees and management team in the industry,” Frazier said in the statement Thursday. “As executive chairman, I look forward to collaborating with Rob and our board of directors to help Merck achieve even higher levels of success.”

Frazier’s final years at Merck were marked by his outspoken opposition to former President Donald Trump. He led a revolt among CEOs as the first to resign from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council shortly after the former president’s supportive comments of white nationalist, “alt-Right” and neo-Nazi groups at a violent protest in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017.

A former attorney, Frazier rose to become one of the country’s most prominent black CEOs. Before joining Merck, Frazier helped free a black death row inmate who was falsely accused of murder.

Davis will become Merck’s president effective April 1, the company said. He joined the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company as its top financial officer in 2014.

Two years later, Davis’ job was expanded to include “the company’s global support functions, which encompass corporate business development, investor relations, information technology, procurement, real estate operations, and corporate strategy.”

“Rob has been instrumental in helping Merck take the right actions to adapt to the changing healthcare environment while remaining committed to investing in the scientific innovation that we expect will drive our future growth. 

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Katherine Clark