Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier Retiring And Robert Davis Named As Successor

By Amit Chowdhry ● February 4, 2021
  • Today Merck (NYSE: MRK) announced that Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, will retire as CEO, effective June 30, 2021. These are the details.

Today Merck (NYSE: MRK) — known as MSD outside the United States and Canada — announced that Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, will retire as CEO, effective June 30, 2021. Frazier will continue to serve on Merck’s board of directors as executive chairman for a transition period to be determined by the board. 

And the Merck board of directors has unanimously elected Robert M. Davis, Merck’s current executive vice president, global services and chief financial officer, as chief executive officer, as well as a member of the board, effective July 1, 2021. Davis will become president of Merck, effective April 1, 2021 at which time the company’s operating divisions—Human Health, Animal Health, Manufacturing, and Merck Research Laboratories—will begin reporting to him.

Davis joined Merck as chief financial officer in 2014. And in 2016 his role was expanded to include the company’s global support functions — which encompass corporate business development, investor relations, information technology, procurement, real estate operations, and corporate strategy.

KEY QUOTES:

“The board and I are delighted that Rob will serve as Merck’s next CEO. He has deep knowledge of our company and industry and has been a valued strategic thought partner to me and the Merck senior management team as well as a highly capable finance leader. Rob has been instrumental in helping Merck take the right actions to adapt to the changing healthcare environment while remaining committed to investing in the scientific innovation that we expect will drive our future growth. His intellect and proven ability to define and articulate strategies that can be translated into clear and focused operational plans that lead to successful execution are also critical attributes. Rob personifies the values and integrity that are essential for a leader of Merck. I am confident that he has the strategic and leadership skills necessary to ensure that the company remains fully committed to its core mission of translating cutting-edge science into products and services that save and improve lives while simultaneously adopting new business and operating models that will unlock future value through innovation, digital transformation, and efficiency.”

“It has been a privilege to serve as Merck’s CEO for the past decade and to work with the most dedicated and talented employees and management team in the industry. As executive chairman, I look forward to collaborating with Rob and our board of directors to help Merck achieve even higher levels of success.”

— Ken Frazier

“On behalf of the entire Merck board, I thank Ken for his strong and highly principled leadership and his commitment to the company’s core values of scientific excellence, business integrity, patient focus, and respect for all people. Ken’s vision and courage to make difficult changes within Merck, while steadfastly investing in research and development, have positioned Merck well for sustainable future growth. Under Ken’s leadership, Merck has delivered many innovative lifesaving medicines and vaccines, including KEYTRUDA, GARDASIL 9, and BRIDION, and also focused on other key growth drivers, such as Lynparza, Lenvima, and animal health to create long-term value for its shareholders and other stakeholders.

“Ken’s belief in the importance of a strong, values-based culture, and his ability to attract and retain the best talent, will stand as an enduring testament to his concern and care for the people whose skill and commitment will be critical to Merck’s continued success. These characteristics and accomplishments, coupled with his principled stances on broader public issues, especially those involving intolerance and injustice, make his planned retirement felt so personally by every member of the board.”

“During our succession planning process the board has had an opportunity to witness Rob’s substantial contributions to the company and the leadership team. He is the right person to lead Merck into the future. We have tremendous confidence in Rob’s ability to continue to foster innovation and to team with Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, to drive scientific excellence into the future. We are particularly pleased that Ken will continue as executive chairman in order to work with Rob and Dean to ensure a smooth transition for the company.”

— Les Brun, Merck’s lead independent director

“I am honored to be appointed the next chief executive officer of Merck. I thank the board and Ken for their confidence in me. I plan to continue Ken’s focus on innovation as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company. This will be a year of great change both for the company and for our industry. As we work through the pandemic, we will continue to focus on the important work of bringing our medicines and vaccines to those who need them. Merck will not waver in its role of searching for and developing medically necessary products to improve people’s lives throughout the world.”

– Robert M. Davis, incoming CEO