Merck Appoints Kenneth Frazier as CEO to Succeed Richard Clark

Kenneth Frazier
Kenneth Frazier

Pharmaceutical and health care giant Merck (MRK) announced Tuesday it has appointed its current president Kenneth Frazier (pictured) as chief executive officer and president, as well as a member of the board, effective Jan. 1, 2011. Frazier will succeed Richard Clark, who has served as Merck's CEO since 2005 and will continue as chairman of the board.

Merck said today's announcement is the result of a long-term, thoughtful succession-planning process led by Clark and the board of directors. Speaking on behalf of Merck's board, William Harrison said, "During the board's succession-planning process, it became clear to us that Ken Frazier has the strategic vision, operational experience and passion to lead Merck."

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Before joining Merck, Frazier was a partner at the Philadelphia law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath. He joined Merck in 1992 as vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Astra Merck Group. According to Newsweek, as general counsel for Merck, he opted for a more risky strategy when dealing with lawsuits over the painkiller Vioxx. The strategy paid off, with Merck settling most of the U.S. lawsuits for far less than analysts' estimates. Newsweek named him CEO of tomorrow.

Frazier rose quickly through the ranks and was appointed president in April 2010. As president, he lead Merck's three major divisions: Merck's pharmaceutical and vaccine business; Merck Manufacturing Division; and Merck's research organization. In 2009, his total compensation was nearly $5.3 million according to Forbes.

Frazier sits on the board of directors of Exxon Mobil (XOM), as well as on several university boards and other associations. He received his bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Merck shares dropped nearly 8% in early premarket trading, but later pared losses. Shares were down nearly 1% an hour before the open.

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