Pfizer Inc. said on Monday Chief Executive Ian Read would become executive chairman from the start of next year, handing the reins of the largest U.S. drugmaker to veteran insider Albert Bourla after eight years in charge.
Under Read, a Scot who joined Pfizer in 1978, the drugmaker won 30 approvals from the U.S. health regulator while weathering patent expirations on several of its blockbusters, including cholesterol drug, Lipitor.
Read, however, failed in his efforts to pull off two mega deals, with plans to buy British drugmaker AstraZeneca in 2014 and Ireland-based Allergan Plc in 2016 both falling through.
Bourla, 56, was appointed chief operating officer at the start of this year, after leading the drugmaker's Innovative Health business, which recorded revenue of $31.4 billion in 2017.
"This looks like a well-considered transition thus I’m not convinced it will herald a major change in strategic thinking, particularly as Ian will still stay on as chairman," Berenberg analyst Alistair Campbell said.
The appointment comes at a time when drugmakers are facing intense scrutiny over drug pricing, with regulators and the Trump administration aiming to lower prescription drug costs.
In July, Pfizer said it was deferring drug price increases for no more than six months after a conversation between Read and President Trump.
Pfizer's shares (PFE), which have risen about 160 percent since Read took over as CEO in December 2010, were trading up 0.36 percent at $44.23 before the bell.
"It's been an honor to serve as Pfizer's CEO for the past eight years," Read said. "However, now is the right time for a leadership change, and Albert is the right person to guide Pfizer through the coming era."
Last week, rival Merck & Co Inc. said it would amend a policy to allow its head, Kenneth Frazier, to remain CEO beyond 2019 when he was expected to retire.
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