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Pfizer names Albert Bourla to succeed Ian Read as CEO

Pfizer today announced its board of directors has unanimously elected Albert Bourla, 56, COO, to succeed Ian Read as CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Read will transition from his current role as chairman and CEO to executive chairman of Pfizer’s board of directors.

“It’s been an honor to serve as Pfizer’s CEO for the past eight years,” Read said in a statement. “However, now is the right time for a leadership change, and Albert is the right person to guide Pfizer through the coming era. Albert is an energizing leader who has an unwavering commitment to serving patients. With 25 years at Pfizer, he has developed an extensive knowledge of the industry and demonstrated an ability to build and grow businesses. With Albert at the helm, our dedicated colleagues across the globe are poised to deliver the next stage of growth. I look forward to working with Albert and the board to continue serving patients and delivering value for shareholders.”

Read was named CEO of Pfizer on Dec. 6, 2010, and chairman of its board of directors on Dec. 12, 2011.

According to Pfizer, Read's achievements include the following:

  • 30 FDA approvals

  • Total shareholder return of 250%, outperforming the S&P 500 index by 180 percentage points;

  • $1200-plus billion direct return of capital to shareholders;

  • A strong pipeline with the potential for approximately 25 to 30 approvals through 2022, of which up to 15 have the potential to be blockbusters;

  • A 70% increase in annual dividends to $1.36 from $0.80; and

  • Since 2010, donated more than 580 million doses of Zithromax (azithromycin) to treat trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness. In response, the number of people at risk of trachoma blindness worldwide has been reduced to 158 million from more than 300 million in 2010.

“On behalf of the board of the directors, I want to thank Ian for his remarkable leadership as CEO. During an extraordinary period for the company, he successfully managed through $23 billion of lost revenue due to product losses of exclusivity, while at the same time driving strong and consistent financial performance and investing for the future,” lead independent director of Pfizer’s board of directors Shantanu Narayen said in a statement.“Consequently, Pfizer now has a pipeline that we believe is as deep and strong as ever. In addition, Ian has built a unique ownership culture that increased accountability and encouraged collaboration. As such, the company is now better positioned for success.”

“Today’s leadership announcement is part of a thoughtful, multiyear succession planning process,” Narayen said. “The board has been impressed with Albert’s performance, depth of experience and track record for success, and we are confident that as CEO he will drive innovation and further advancements across the business.”

Prior to assuming the role of COO on Jan. 1, 2018, Bourla led Pfizer’s Innovative Health business, which recorded revenues of $31.4 billion and income before taxes of $18.3 billion in 2017, representing an 8% and 17% year-over-year operational growth, respectively, and an increase of profitability to 58% compared with 54% the previous year.

He also established the Innovative Health Emerging Markets region, with $4.4 billion in revenues in 2017, reflecting operational growth of 18%. Prior to his appointment as leader of Pfizer Innovative Health, in January 2014 he became the group president of the vaccines, oncology and consumer healthcare business unit. Under his leadership within four years, the Oncology business tripled in size, the vaccines business grew by 50% and the consumer healthcare business significantly improved its profitability, the company said.

Bourla spearheaded several key transactions to advance Pfizer’s oncology, inflammation and immunology, vaccines and rare disease portfolios, and prioritized investments to create a leading oncology business with strong positions in breast and prostate cancer franchises, said Pfizer.

“I am humbled and privileged to be the next CEO of Pfizer, and I appreciate the confidence that both Ian and the board of directors have placed in me. I also want to thank Ian for his constant support, and am fortunate to have him as both a mentor and friend. I welcome Ian’s continuing contributions as executive chairman. This is a dynamic time for Pfizer, and I look forward to working with our colleagues to deliver critical medicines to patients all over the globe, which remains the compass for all we do at Pfizer," Bourla said in a press statement.
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