AbbVie CFO Chase spearheaded its Abbott spinoff and Imbruvica buy—and now he's retiring

AbbVie
AbbVie's chief financial officer Bill Chase is retiring in the middle of next year, to be replaced by controller Richard Michael. (AbbVie)

AbbVie has been on quite the ride since its spinoff from Abbott, largely thanks to booming growth for its megablockbuster Humira. Now, the company’s chief financial officer is nearly ready to step aside. 

Bill Chase, AbbVie’s CFO since the company’s 2013 spinoff, will retire in the middle of 2019, the company reported in an SEC filing (PDF). Starting today, he’s serving as executive vice president, finance and administration.  

With the move, Robert Michael is taking over Chase’s position. Michael has been AbbVie’s controller since March 2017 and served as treasurer from 2015 to 2016. He joined Abbott in 1993. 

Since its break from Abbott, AbbVie has significantly grown sales of its top drug Humira, from $10.6 billion in 2013 to $18.4 billion last year, and snapped up co-marketing rights to Imbruvica from Pharmacyclics in a $21 billion deal. Analysts believe Humira will pass the $20 billion mark in the coming years, even as it faces new biosimilars in Europe, and Imbruvica carries 2022 sales projections topping $8 billion.

Humira biosimilars launched in the EU this week, but under several patent deals AbbVie has inked with biosimilar makers, copycats won't hit the U.S. until 2023. Amgen has rights to the earliest U.S. biosimilar launch, set for January that year.

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The company has expanded into other treatment areas since its spinoff, notably with 2015’s Pharmacyclics buy. With that deal, AbbVie secured half of Imbruvica, a cancer drug boasting numerous indications—including a new one approved in August—and it's been posting growth figures quarter after quarter. AbbVie shares the drug with Johnson & Johnson. 

AbbVie has also seen success with Mavyret, its new pan-genotypic hepatitis C drug that’s been beating expectations and stealing share from Gilead Sciences. In the second quarter, AbbVie’s hep C sales were $973 million.  

RELATED: AbbVie paid a 'lofty,' 'staggering,' 'astronomical' price for Pharmacyclics. But was it too much? 

Just as Chase was, Michael will be charged with financial strategy as AbbVie's hoped-for growth continues, but he isn't likely to be facing a major integration like the Pharmacyclics deal. Though CEO Richard Gonzalez said earlier this year that AbbVie wouldn't turn away an M&A prospect of $20 billion-plus if the right one came along, he figures valuations are too inflated to make that a likely bet. Instead, the company is scouting smaller, bolt-on deals if the right assets pop up, Gonzalez said.

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Meanwhile, before Humira biosimilars reach the U.S. market, AbbVie plans to launch 20 new products or new "major indications" for existing drugs, CEO Richard Gonzalez said this summer.