Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier participates in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West, in New York, Oct. 10 2019. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier to Retire, Leaving Just Three Black Fortune 500 CEOs

Longtime Merck CEO Ken Frazier who has worked at the pharmaceutical company for almost 30 years is retiring, the company announced Thursday, Feb. 4. He will be succeeded by CFO Robert Davis on April 1.

“It has been a privilege to serve as Merck’s CEO for the past decade and to work with the most dedicated and talented employees and management team in the industry,” Frazier said in a statement following the announcement. “Rob has been instrumental in helping Merck take the right actions to adapt to the changing healthcare environment while remaining committed to investing in the scientific innovation that we expect will drive our future growth,” Frazier said. “I look forward to collaborating with Rob and our board of directors to help Merck achieve even higher levels of success.”

According to CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn, “Frazier’s final years at Merck were marked by his outspoken opposition to former President Donald Trump. He led a revolt among CEOs as the first to resign from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council shortly after the former president’s supportive comments of white nationalist groups at the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.”

After resigning from the council, Frazier said in a statement, “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Frazier later elaborated on his decision with the Harvard Business Review, saying: “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me or any other CEO to wade into every political dispute. That’s not what we’re here for. But I didn’t see this as a political issue. It’s an issue that goes to our fundamental values as a country. We aspire to be a rational, tolerant, hopefully enlightened collection of free people. We don’t all look the same. We don’t come from the same countries. What we share are the ideals that make the United States unique.”

In his decade-long tenure as the head of the pharmaceutical giant, Frazier frequently “called for business leaders to be a ‘unifying force’ that can help solve many of the racial inequalities in America by creating new opportunities and jobs,” Higgins-Dunn reported.  

In remembering his career as one of the most outspoken CEOs in the country, Jordan Valinsky from CNN Business recalled that Frazier made headlines for the way he spoke out last summer during the nationwide protests for George Floyd, saying “it could’ve been him who was killed by police.”

“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” Frazier said.

A lawyer before he joined Merck in 1992, Frazier began his career by helping to free a black death row inmate who had been falsely accused of murder.

The end of Frazier’s time at Merck comes at a period of transition for the drug company. Fourth-quarter worldwide sales for the company totaled $12.5 billion, an increase of 5% and worldwide sales for the year topped $48 billion, an increase of 2% over 2019. Still, the company entered the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 well after competitors like Pfizer and Moderna and has announced that it is ending research and development of its own vaccine. Instead, the company plans to focus on new treatments for the coronavirus, with results of one experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March 2021.

While Frazier’s retirement brings the total number of Black CEOs running a Fortune 500 company down to three, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s recent appointment of Rosaline “Roz” Brewer will bring the total back up to four once she takes over as CEO on March 15.

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

Latest News

banned books

Texas Lawmaker Pursues Banning 850 Books From Schools Over Fears That They Might Cause ‘Student Discomfort’

The state of Texas is continuing its descent away from democracy and equality for its citizens. First came its horrifying rollback of women’s rights with its recent abortion ban. Then came its recent attack on trans students’ ability to participate in sports. Now, Texas lawmakers are at it again, this…

Border patrol agents

Government Establishes New ‘Protected Areas’ Where Illegal Immigrants Should No Longer Fear Being Arrested

Immigrants in the United States without proper documentation will no longer have to fear getting arrested at schools, churches, hospitals and a number of newly “protected” areas. The Associated Press has reported that the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. immigration authorities issued new guidelines on Wednesday, Oct. 27,…

girls high school sports

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Officially Bans Transgender Students From School Sports

Holding true to threats he has made in the past, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially signed into Texas state law a rule that would restrict transgender students from participating in high school sports consistent with their gender identity. ESPN’s Katie Barnes reported that following Abbott’s action, Texas has become…

Prince

Music Icon Prince Could Soon Be Honored With Posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

He changed music history and was the soundtrack for countless people’s lives, and now music legend Prince could soon be awarded a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. government. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press has reported that “Minnesota’s Congressional delegation on Monday, Oct. 25, introduced a resolution to…

AAPI Hate

New FBI Report Estimates Anti-Asian Hate in the United States Increased by 73% in 2020

We’ve known anti-Asian sentiment increased dramatically in the U.S. since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but new government data quantifies just how shockingly severe that jump has been. Based on recently released FBI data, Sakshi Venkatraman of NBC News reported that “anti-Asian hate crimes increased more than 73% in…

Boeing building

Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert Named Black Engineer of the Year by ‘US Black Engineer & Information Technology’ Magazine

Originally published at boeing.mediaroom.com. Boeing Company ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Ted Colbert, president and CEO of Boeing Global Services, has been named Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) for 2022 by U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine. The…