It's official: Merck makes Frazier president, heir apparent

Merck's (NYSE: MRK) Kenneth Frazier (photo) must be a happy man. As many expected, Frazier was promoted to president of the company and now stands as Chairman and CEO Dick Clark's apparent successor. Given that Clark (photo) reaches mandatory retirement age next year, Frazier won't have too long to wait in the wings.

As president, Frazier will shepherd Merck's three biggest global divisions: pharma and vaccine sales and marketing, R&D, and manufacturing and supply, the company says in a statement. Getting these three units to collaborate as much as possible is "critical to the success" of Merck's recent merger with Schering-Plough, Merck says. Adam Schechter, head of Merck's U.S. pharma business, will step into Frazier's old shoes as president of Global Human Health.

Frazier has been something of a golden boy at Merck. He enhanced his rep as general counsel during the Vioxx fiasco, then took over as president of Global Human Health in 2007. In that job, he overhauled the company's sales model and steered a big efficiency--a.k.a. cost-cutting--drive. He also played a big role in the Schering merger, the company says.

So Frazier's new job is a natural step upward for him and a natural choice for the company to make. But as Forbes points out, it also says something about Merck's strategy going forward: It's sticking to its knitting. The company has already "done a lot internally" to overhaul its structure and culture, Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan told the magazine. Now, it's time for "blocking and tackling," she figures, not for a new playbook.

- read the Merck release
- get Forbes' take
- see the post at Pharmalot