Merck’s Kenneth Frazier to retire as CEO

Kenneth Frazier - one of just a few Black executives leading a Fortune 500 company- is stepping down from the top job at Merck.

The drug maker said Thursday Frazier will retire as CEO at the end of June but will remain as executive chairman.

Frazier made headlines in 2017 when he became the first business leader to quit President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council in an apparent protest over Trump’s tepid reaction to violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The grandson of a sharecropper, Frazier joined Merck nearly 30 years ago. He ascended to the CEO post in 2011. Under his leadership, Merck developed the blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, and it is now one of the leading products in a new generation of oncology treatments.

Shares of the company have more than doubled during his reign.

Replacing Frazier: chief financial officer Robert Davis. He was the president of Baxter International’s medical products business before joining Merck in 2014.

The announcement came with the release of quarterly results. On a post-earnings conference call, Davis said of the man he will be replacing – QUOTE – “His shoes won’t be easy to fill in so many ways, both within Merck but also including his many principled and valuable contributions to important issues facing society today.”

Shares of Merck declined in early trading Thursday.