Lilly CEO set for surgery on dilated aorta; CFO steps up temporarily

Eli Lilly Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter is taking an unexpected leave of absence. Lechleiter is scheduled for surgery for a dilated aorta on Monday and will hand the CEO reins over to CFO Derica Rice as he recovers. If all goes well, he'll be back on the job later this summer, the company said.

In the surgery, the dilated portion of Lechleiter's aorta will be replaced with a graft. Doctors discovered the condition during unrelated testing, the company said. As the Wall Street Journal notes, dilation in the aorta can be life-threatening if untreated.

"It is a serious situation but it has been caught early enough," Edward Sagebiel, a Lilly ($LLY) spokesman, told Bloomberg. "He is expected to make a full recovery."

Rice has been with Lilly for more than 22 years; he's been CFO since 2006. He took over responsibility for Lilly's global services organization in 2010. While he assumes Lechleiter's day-to-day duties as CEO, Ellen Marram, Lilly's lead independent director, will serve as acting chair of the company's board.

"The company will be in very good hands during my leave," Lechleiter said in a statement. "I look forward to returning to work following my recovery."

- see the release from Lilly
- read the WSJ article
- get more from Bloomberg

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