CEO Hot Seat Watch: Merck's Kenneth Frazier

Merck’s chief can’t seem to steer the drugmaker to a better place
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Kenneth Frazier joined Merck in 1992 as general counsel and made his name leading the company’s defense against claims that its Vioxx painkiller caused heart attacks and strokes. His tenure as chief executive officer, beginning in January 2011, has been less distinguished. Shares of Merck, the No. 2 drugmaker in the U.S. by sales, have underperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Health Care Index since 2010 and trailed those of its peers in the past 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Grappling with declining sales and setbacks on experimental medicines, the $134 billion company announced in October that it would fire 8,500 workers and overhaul its research and development operation. Roger Perlmutter, who took over as R&D chief in April, wants to put more emphasis on vaccines, cancer, diabetes, and drugs used in hospital settings. Frazier is also considering spinning off the animal-health and consumer-product units. A similar move by larger rival Pfizer boosted shareholder value by $50 billion.

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