Is Lilly CFO's promotion a succession plan?

Has Eli Lilly anointed CFO Derica Rice as heir-apparent to current CEO John Lechleiter (photo)? Yes, we know Lechleiter has only been in the chief executive's office for two years now. But as Dow Jones reports, Lechleiter just handed some big responsibilities to Rice, indicating that he's grooming the CFO to take his place someday.

In addition to his CFO job, Rice will take on the jobs of overseeing quality control and supervising IT. His new title: Executive Vice President (he had been SVP). "Derica, in his new role, will help ensure that these important functions, aligned with our global services design effort, continue to provide needed support to our business units and our key functions in the most efficient and effective way possible," the CEO says in a statement.

Rice has worked at Lilly for 19 years, having joined the company as an international treasury associate. He's been CFO for Lilly's Canadian unit, CFO for European operations, and general manager of Lilly's U.K. and Ireland business. Before moving into the CFO slot in 2006, he was VP and controller. So, as Lechleiter did, Rice is moving up the ranks within Lilly. Whether he'll follow Lechleiter's footsteps any further is a wait-and-see proposition.

- see the Lilly release
- read the AP brief in BusinessWeek
- get Dow Jones' take