EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Merck’s New CEO Robert Davis
Present Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier is retiring in June
Global pharmaceutical giant Merck (NYSE: MRK) has named Robert Davis as their next chief executive officer. Davis joined Merck as a chief financial officer in 2014.
Globally known and respected, Merck chief executive officer Kenneth Frazier is retiring
The company’s present CEO, the legendary Kenneth Frazier, is retiring in June. Frazier has been a prolifically successful leader at Merck and is one of the few black Fortune 500 CEOs. Ken will continue to serve on Merck’s board of directors as executive chairman during the course of a transition period.
Before Merck, Frazier was with the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath; he joined the Merck corporate organization in 1992 as vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Astra Merck group. Frazier became Merck’s chief executive officer and a member of its board in January 2011; less than a year later he was named chairman of the board on December 1, 2011.
Robert Davis’ career is a distinguished track record of success in the healthcare industry; he has all the attributes Merck needs as its next CEO
Davis’ extensive healthcare industry leadership experience stems from his work at Merck plus two other iconic pharmaceutical and medical product companies. A snapshot of his executive background reveals decades of increasing levels of responsibility, scale and success:
- Merck, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- Baxter Healthcare (NYSE: BAX): Corporate Vice President and President, Medical Products
- Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY): Director of Corporate Financial Planning
Rob’s diversified board experience widens his perspective
Throughout his career, Davis has extended his talents into other areas that fortified his experience in and understanding of the complex global healthcare industry. His corporate and philanthropic board memberships include:
- Baxter International Foundation (NYSE: BAX)
- C.R. Bard/Becton Dickinson (NYSE: BDX)
- Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK)
- Project Hope
- Rush University Medical Center
Davis’ academic background aligns with the corporate and regulatory challenges of the global healthcare industry
One interesting comparison is Davis and Frazier each have law degrees. Rob’s education is comprised of finance, management and legal elements that reflect the complexity of the global pharmaceutical business sector. His credentials include:
- Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, JD
- Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, MBA
- Miami University, B.S. Finance
Merck launched a major corporate transformation initiative early in 2020
Rob Davis is taking the helm of a clinical and commercial winning pharmaceutical enterprise that has been refitted and refreshed. Early in 2020, Merck announced it was forming a spinoff company that will be called “Organon”. The new organization will be fully separated in 2021 and formed by combining these business units and product franchises:
- Older legacy products
- Women’s Healthcare
Following the spinoff news, Merck further defined its new commercial organization by selling its StayWell unit to WebMD/Internet Brands (a strategic holding of KKR).
Davis will be advancing the growth and success of the core Merck organization centered on four primary areas of healthcare and life sciences:
- Animal Health
New partnerships, product launches and acquisitions continued at Merck during the transformation
As Merck was finalizing the plans of the 2020 divestiture maneuver at the end of 2019, it launched Ervebo, the world’s first vaccine for the Ebola virus. As the new year and the spinoff got underway the company continued to achieve more successes and create additional business opportunities through strategic partnerships with AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Seattle Genetics.
Merck augmented these initiatives in May by launching a COVID-19 initiative that included two vaccines and one antiviral product venture. When the vaccine candidates fell short of their expectations Merck quickly cut bait on them and continued to move forward with the development of the antiviral agent. It supplemented its COVID-19 antiviral pipeline by acquiring OncoImmune for $425 million which will also contribute to its oncology business pursuits.
Merck closed out 2020 with another acquisition, VelosBio, for $2.75 billion that will further enrich its new cancer treatment product development plans. As a member of Merck’s senior leadership team, Davis has an intimate understanding of the organization’s strengths and strategic direction moving forward.
Merck enters 2021 as a new company with a new leader and a formidable competitive position
The company kicked off 2021 with a new product launch that was a result of yet another partnership. Merck introduced a new cardiovascular therapy, Verquvo (vericiguat), in collaboration with Bayer during January.
Founded in 1891 and headquartered in Kenilworth, New Jersey Merck generated $48 billion in sales during 2020. Kenneth Frazier has set the stage for Merck to enter a new chapter of successful growth in which Davis has had a direct hand in developing.
Merck has always been a clinical and commercial innovator plus a fierce competitor in any pharmaceutical business sector it chooses to do business in, Robert Davis is the ideal executive leader to guide it towards even greater achievements.
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