Merck Chief Executive Officer Kenneth C. Frazier is stepping down from his role atop the helm of the pharma giant on June 30 after nearly 30 years with the company. He will be replaced by Robert M. Davis, Merck’s chief financial officer and head of global services.
Frazier is one of the highest-profile African American CEOs in not only the pharma industry, but also the United States. He was the first African-American to lead a Fortune 500 company. He has been with Merck since 1992 when he joined the company as vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Astra Merck group.
Over the course of his career, Frazier has held multiple leadership roles within the company. He became CEO in 2011. Although Frazier is stepping down as CEO, he will serve as executive chairman of the board of directors.
In a brief statement issued this morning, Frazier called it a privilege to serve as Merck’s CEO. He also praised the “dedicated and talented employees and management team” at the company. During his tenure at the helm, the company has seen one of its cancer assets, the checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda, become one of the most-prescribed cancer drugs. Keytruda is poised to become to become the top-selling drug in the world in the next few years.
In 2017, Frazier made headlines when he resigned from a presidential manufacturing council following Donald Trump’s failure to adequately condemn white supremacists in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, VA.
In 2018, Frazier was named one of the World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine and also was named to the Time 100 Most Influential People. In 2019, he became the first recipient of the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for Healthcare.