Merck's board just changed the rules to keep its CEO on board after he turns 65

  • MerckCEO Kenneth Frazier plans to stay on in his role as CEO past December 2019, when he turns 65.
  • The pharma giant’s board of directors had to overturn a mandatory CEO retirement policy in order for Frazier to stay on.
  • Frazier, who became CEO in 2011, gained national attention after he was the first to depart President Donald Trump now-disbanded manufacturing council.
  • Watch Merck trade in real time.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier is sticking around.

The New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant said Wednesday that its board of directors had overturned a policy requiring CEOs to retire when they turn 65, allowing Frazier to stick around past December 2019.

“CEO succession has been our top priority, and removing the mandatory retirement policy enables the Board to make the best decision concerning the timing of that transition,” Leslie A. Brun, speaking on behalf of the board said in a news release.

Frazier became Merck’s CEO in 2011 and rose to national attention last year when he was the first to depart President Donald Trump now-disbanded manufacturing council. This happened after Trump failed to explicitly denounce white nationalism over the weekend when violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many other business leaders followed Frazier’s lead before the council was dissolved entirely.

Frazier’s track record

Frazier, who’s 63, grew up in North Philadelphia. His father, who was a janitor, motivated his kids to be successful.

“My father had a very strong view of what it took to be successful, and he in effect brainwashed all his children to think that we could do anything,” Frazier told the Harvard Law Bulletin in 2011. “He had very high personal standards. Although he was a janitor by accident of birth, I believe he could have been a CEO of any company.”

Frazier attended Penn State University (he later served on the university’s board of trustees), and Harvard Law School. He started his career working at a Philadelphia area law firm, before rising to partner. He joined Merck in 1992 and went on to become senior general counsel seven years later. He held different leadership roles before taking on the role of CEO in 2011, along with chairman of the board.

During Frazier’s tenure as CEO, the company has become known for its cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda. Initially approved in 2014, the drug, which works by taking the brakes off the immune system so it can go after cancers like melanoma and lung cancer, brought in $US3.8 billion in revenue in 2017.

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