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Kenneth Frazier will retire as CEO efficient June 30, in line with Merck

Ken Frazier, Chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., speaks during an Economic Club of New York meeting on October 3, 2018.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The outspoken CEO of Merck, Ken Frazier, is leaving the company with effect from June 30 after almost 30 years with the drug manufacturer, Merck announced on Thursday.

The 66-year-old Frazier will be replaced by the company's Chief Financial Officer, Robert Davis, and will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Merck, "for a transition period to be determined by the Board of Directors," the company said in a statement. Frazier, one of the few black corporate executives in the United States, has been CEO of Merck since January 2011.

"It has been a privilege to serve as CEO of Merck for the past decade and to work with the most dedicated and talented employees and management team in the industry," Frazier said in the statement on Thursday. "As CEO, I look forward to working with Rob and our Board of Directors to help Merck be even more successful."

Frazier's final years at Merck were marked by his outspoken opposition to former President Donald Trump. He led a revolt among CEOs when he first came out of Trump's American Manufacturing Council at a violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, shortly after the former president's supportive comments of white nationalist, "old-right" and neo-Nazi groups in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia retired.

As a former lawyer, Frazier rose to become one of the most famous black CEOs in the country. Before joining Merck, Frazier helped free a black death row inmate who was falsely accused of murder.

Davis will become President of Merck effective April 1, the company said. He joined the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company in 2014 as the chief financial officer.

Two years later, Davis' job was expanded to include "the company's global support functions including business development, investor relations, information technology, procurement, real estate and corporate strategy."

"Rob has been instrumental in helping Merck take the right steps to adapt to the changing healthcare environment and remains committed to investing in the scientific innovations that we expect will drive our future growth."

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