Kenneth Frazier, One Of Four Black Fortune 500 CEOs, To Retire

Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier has announced that he will look to retire after three decades of work. Frazier will be succeeded by the company's Chief Financial Officer Robert Davis. In the immediate future, Frazier will stay at Merck as an executive chairman “for a transition period to be determined by the board.

“It has been a privilege to serve as Merck’s CEO for the past decade and to work with the most dedicated and talented employees and management team in the industry,” Frazier stated.

“As executive chairman, I look forward to collaborating with Rob and our board of directors to help Merck achieve even higher levels of success.”

Frazier first encountered Merck & Co. while working as a lawyer for Drinker Biddle. One of Frazier's many clients happened to be Merck & Co. From there, Frazier began working as general counsel for Merck & Co in 1992. Over the course of nearly 15 years, Frazier made the leap from general counsel to executive Vice President. In 2011, he was named CEO of Merck & Co. In this role, Frazier became the first Black man to lead a major pharmaceutical company in the United States.

Beyond his role as CEO, Frazier is best known for his back and forth relationship with former President Donald Trump. During the early stages of Trump's presidency, the Philadelphia native agreed to be a part of the American Manufacturing Council. However, his time with the council came to an end less than a year after it began. Frazier resigned from the council and called for large businesses to be a "unifying force" after Trump's handling of the "Unite The Right" rally in 2017.

“We have to be willing to take the position that if we're not racist, we need to challenge a process, a system, a custom that allows African Americans to advance," Frazier said during a recent interview with Harvard Business School.

“We need politicians who have the will and the integrity to tell people the truth.”

With Frazier's departure, there will be only three Black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies. The number grew to four after Walgreens announced that Rosalind Brewer would take over as CEO. She is the first Black woman to lead Walgreens. Frazier's departure on April 1 will overlap with Brewer's ascension. It is truly a changing of the guard.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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