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Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announces retirement

The Merck CEO oversaw the development of important cancer immunotherapy drugs and an HPV vaccine during his tenure.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announces retirement
[Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]
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First, it was Jeff Bezos announcing he’s stepping down as chief executive officer of Amazon, now it’s Kenneth Frazier—a busy week for CEO exits. Frazier has been with pharmaceutical giant Merck since 1992 when he joined the company as a vice president. In his almost 30 years he rose through the ranks, holding various positions, before becoming CEO of Merck in 2011.

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Under Frazier’s leadership, Merck developed a number of new medications and vaccines including the cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil 9, and the neuromuscular agent Bridion.

Merck says Frazier will stay on as CEO until June 30, 2021, at which point he will be succeeded by Robert M. Davis, Merck’s current executive vice president, global services, and chief financial officer.

Besides his achievements at Merck, Frazier also has the distinction of currently being one of only four Black CEOs running a Fortune 500 company. Another Black CEO will be joining the Fortune 500 ranks in March—Walgreen’s Rosalind Brewer. But the same month Roger Ferguson Jr. will be departing as CEO from pension fund TIAA. That means by the time Frazier steps down in June, there will only be three Fortune 500 companies with a Black CEO. As Fortune notes, that’s a 50% drop from the all-time high of just six Black CEOs helming Fortune 500 companies at any one time.

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About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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