Merck scouts replacements for CEO Frazier less than a year after scrapping retirement rule: report

Merck CEO
Ken Frazier has served as Merck's CEO since 2011. (PhRMA)

It was less than a year ago that Merck’s board scrapped a policy that CEOs must retire at the age of 65 in a move designed to keep Ken Frazier around longer. Now, the company is scouting replacements for the long-tenured helmsman, Bloomberg reports

Merck is preparing for Frazier’s exit and has kicked off a search for potential replacements with a preference for an internal candidate, the news service says, citing sources familiar with the process. The drugmaker is also preparing for the exit of R&D head Roger Perlmutter, according to the report. 

A Merck representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from FiercePharma.

RELATED: Congrats, Ken Frazier: Merck's board scraps mandatory retirement to keep CEO at his post 

Frazier joined Merck in 1992 and has served as CEO since 2011; he’s also the board’s chairman. Last year, the company’s board did away with a rule requiring CEOs to retire at the age of 65, allowing Frazier to stay on past his birthday in December.

In recent years, Frazier has presided over a period of growth fueled partly by the megablockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, sales of which passed $7 billion for 2018. But recently, some analysts and investors have questioned how Merck plans to grow beyond the successful med. Merck's sales last year grew 5% to $42.3 billion.

One Bloomberg source listed the drugmaker’s chief commercial officer Frank Clyburn, its chief financial officer Robert Davis and its chief marketing officer Michael Nally as potential CEO replacements. 

RELATED: Merck promotes oncology, vaccine executives to replace Adam Schechter in commercial rejig 

Wednesday's report comes after the company parted ways with global human health head Adam Schechter, who led a three-decade career at the drugmaker. He’s set to become CEO of LabCorp. 

The development also comes amid a series of executive moves in biopharma. Roche’s former pharma head Daniel O’Day recently jumped to lead Gilead Sciences, and Sanofi this month said its CEO Olivier Brandicourt is retiring. Replacing Brandicourt will be former Novartis executive Paul Hudson.

Meanwhile, Merck is hosting an investor day Thursday—its first in five years—and will talk up plans to bolster M&A activity, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The company has inked some bolt-on deals in Peloton and Tilos

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