Citing “family health reasons,” Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky will hand the CEO role over to Joaquin Duato, current vice-chair of the company’s executive committee, at the start of the new year.
Gorsky oversaw a near-decade of significant growth at the medtech and pharma giant. His tenure ultimately will be capped off by Johnson & Johnson’s development of a single-shot vaccine for COVID-19, an alternative to the dominant two-shot mRNA-based vaccines.
“The decision to step aside was one of the most difficult of my career,” Gorsky said in a release issued today. “This is the right time for the company as our organization is delivering strong performance across all three segments and is positioned for continued success, in addition to this being the right time for me personally as I focus more on my family due to family health reasons.”
Gorsky became chair and CEO in 2012. Next year, he’ll assume the executive chairman role, positioning him to work with Duato, a 30-year-veteran of the company who is being credited with overseeing the company’s “rapid response” to COVID-19 to safeguard employee health, secure its supply chain and accelerate the development of the vaccine.
Duato, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Spain, will be appointed to the company’s board of directors.
“I am honored to serve as Johnson & Johnson’s next CEO,” said Duato.
Duato hails from the pharmaceutical side of the company. Prior to serving as executive chairman, Duato served as EVP, worldwide chairman, pharmaceutical at Johnson & Johnson from 2011-2018, and company group chairman, Americas, for Janssen Pharmaceuticals from 2009-2011.
He also served as the chair of the industry group PhRMA from 2017-2018.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he did lead J&J’s diagnostics business from 2007-2009, serving as group chairman. He was also president of its Ortho Biotech Products, L.P., business from 2005-2007.
In the same release, lead independent director Anne Mulcahy, the former CEO and chair of Xerox, said the promotion of Duato is the result of “thoughtful long-term succession planning.”
“We are confident that Joaquin is uniquely qualified and the right person to lead Johnson & Johnson into the future,” Mulcahy said.
Mulcahy called Gorsky a “visionary and transformational leader” at Johnson & Johnson and cited many of his accomplishments.
“We deeply respect Alex’s decision to focus on his family’s health and appreciate his ongoing commitment to Johnson & Johnson through his role as executive chairman as we all support this leadership transition and continue to position the company as a global leader in healthcare.”
The company reported positive Q2 results just under a month ago. Growth in Johnson & Johnson’s medical device business outpaced its pharmaceutical and consumer segments, with 57.8% growth attributed mainly to the market’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic this time a year ago and the uptick in procedures after many were deferred during the pandemic.
Industry-wide the company has enjoyed recognition as a supporter of early-stage pharma and medtech technologies through its JLABs program. In the release, the company said Gorsky oversaw a 60% increase in R&D investments, bringing the total to $12 billion in 2020.
Johnson & Johnson has also been an aggressive buyer of new medical technology. After partnering with Google to create Verb Surgical, Johnson & Johnson paid $3.4 billion for Auris Surgical in 2019, setting it on a course to compete in the increasingly crowded robotic surgery space.
The company unveiled its Ottava surgical system last year.
Ashley McEvoy, EVP and worldwide chair of medical devices, shared more details on the device business in a recent episode of the DeviceTalks Weekly podcast.