Johnson & Johnson CEO: Weldon hands the corner office to Alex Gorsky

Gorsky and Weldon

J&J’s outgoing CEO William Weldon and incoming CEO Alex Gorsky

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) CEO William Weldon will step down in April and hand over the keys to the corner office to executive committee vice chairman Alex Gorsky, the company said today.

The passing of the torch at the world’s largest medical device maker is effective April 26, the day of the company’s annual meeting with shareholders.

Weldon, who has been CEO of JNJ since 2002, will remain on the company’s board of directors.

Gorsky’s promotion is not a surprise. When he was named vice chairman of the executive committee in January 2011, it was widely believed that he was next in line for the top seat.

"This succession decision involved a rigorous, thorough and formal multi-year process, which included consideration of two superbly qualified internal candidates, as well as outside candidates," Weldon said in prepared remarks.

Weldon did much to expand the reach of JNJ over the ten years that he led the New Brunswick, N.J.-based health care monolith.

However the last few years have been marred by controversy over a clutch of high profile product recalls and the sagging fortunes of some of its business units. The DePuy Orthopaedics’ ASR hip implant recall has been particularly costly to the company.


In addition, subsidiary
Cordis Corp., which helped pioneer the drug-eluting stent industry, abruptly departed the market amid lagging sales last year.

Gorsky is a JNJ veteran, who with the exception of a five-year hiatus for an executive position at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., has been with the company since starting as a pharmaceutical sales rep in 1988.

He rose through the ranks steadily until being appointed company group chairman for J&J’s pharmaceutical business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2003, according to a press release.

He left JNJ in 2004 for Novartis but returned to the company in 2009 as the worldwide chairman of the Surgical Care Group and to the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee.

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