Johnson & Johnson CEO Weldon to step down in April

Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:48pm EST
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By Bill Berkrot and Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive William Weldon will step down from his post in April after a series of recalls called into question the quality of the healthcare giant's products, from artificial hips to infant Tylenol.

Weldon, 63, will remain chairman, the company said on Tuesday. He has held both roles for nearly 10 years, after three decades spent working his way through the company from his first job as a sales representative at J&J's McNeil consumer division.

Vice Chairman Alex Gorsky, 51, will become CEO as of the next board meeting on April 26, making him the ninth person to lead the company since J&J's founding in 1886.

Under Weldon's tenure, J&J expanded a sprawling business comprising more than 250 companies, from prescription drugmakers to a medical devices division and units that make personal care products.

In the past two years, the company that long prided itself on a credo of high quality has seen its reputation tarnished by massive recalls for products that were poorly manufactured or failed at a higher-than-expected rate.

"Gorsky is inheriting a company with a better pharmaceutical pipeline than it had 5 or 6 years ago," Morgan, Keegan & Co analyst Jan Wald said. "He is inheriting a consumer division that's still embroiled in problems and he is getting a medical device business that he needs to refresh and restructure and get it to grow again."

"He's got a lot of work to do and it is going to be very hard to affect anything in the short-term," Wald said.

The quality control problems at J&J's McNeil consumer healthcare unit -- which makes over-the-counter medicines like painkillers Tylenol and Motrin -- were deemed so pervasive that U.S. health regulators took over supervision of three manufacturing plants in March.   Continued...

William C. Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, participates in the APEC CEO Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii November 12, 2011.   REUTERS/Jason Reed