Gilead's new chief steals Bristol-Myers Squibb's Mercier for top commercial job, putting Hamill out in the cold

Johanna Mercier will take over as Gilead's commercial chief on July 1. (Gilead China)

Bristol-Myers Squibb is losing another key commercial cog, and this time Gilead is the culprit.

Wednesday, the Big Biotech said it had poached Johanna Mercier, who led the U.S., Germany, France and Japan for BMS, to serve as its next commercial chief. Mercier will join Gilead’s new senior leadership team when she takes the baton July 1.

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Of course, one commercial chief in means another one is out, and that’s Laura Hamill, whose short stint began last summer when Gilead swiped her from Amgen. She won’t walk away empty-handed, though: She’ll be eligible for a cash payment of $1.75 million and entitled to severance payments on top of that, according to a regulatory filing.

The switch marks a key executive hire for Gilead's new CEO, Daniel O’Day, who has begun building his team after taking the helm earlier this year. Longtime CFO Robin Washington has already announced plans to retire next March, and Oncology EVP Alessandro Riva, M.D., jumped ship in March for a CEO position.

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With years of commercial experience of his own, O’Day likely knows exactly what he’s looking for from Mercier, who has held leading roles in oncology, inflammation and neuroscience. The oncology experience in particular could come in handy at Gilead, which tapped O’Day in part for his own cancer background as it looks to jump-start lagging CAR-T drug Yescarta.

“I believe that Johanna has the skills to continue to strengthen our performance and position Gilead for long-term success … “She is a talented leader with a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, across therapeutic markets and geographies, as well as a proven ability to input the commercial perspective into development strategies,” O’Day said in a press release.

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Meanwhile, though, the transition leaves a hole for Bristol, who lost its own commercial chief less than a year ago ahead of its Celgene megamerger agreement. Murdo Gordon’s move to Amgen to replace Tony Hooper kicked off a game of exec musical chairs that’s since seen Hamill’s move to Gilead and BMS’ promotion of Christopher Boerner.