William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson CEO, to retire

William C. Weldon, 63, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson since 2002, will retire in April, the New Brunswick, NJ-based healthcare company said today. The announcement comes in the wake of a series of recalls for J&J products, including children’s Tylenol and artificial hip implants, Bloomberg News noted.

According to the Asbury Park (NJ) Press:

The company's stock price rise exceeded the Dow Jones industrial average during the last decade, but it was beset by so many product recalls and lawsuits that long-time observers began to question whether it had sacrificed its traditional focus on quality for short-term profits.

Since 2009, the company has been forced to order two dozen recalls of its nonprescription drugs, the Associated Press reported, and J&J’s prescription drug division has had to recall at least two drugs, for seizures and HIV. The company’s medical device unit, its biggest by revenue, has recalled problematically painful hip implants and stinging contact lenses.

Liability expenses, lawsuit settlements and product recalls were part of the reason that J&J’s profit declined 89 percent in the most recent quarter, the Asbury Park Press reported.

J&J described the CEO’s departure as normal succession planning, but Weldon had said in the past he would not step down unless the board of directors asked him to go, the AP reported.

Alex Gorsky, 51, currently vice-chairman for devices and supply chain, will succeed Weldon, Bloomberg News reported. Weldon will remain chairman of the board.

Jeff Jonas, an analyst with Gabelli & Co. in Rye, NY, told Bloomberg News that Gorsky is “the natural choice.” He added: “I don’t think there’s going to be a huge change; he’s been involved in a lot of their recent decisions anyway.”

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