Barrier-Breaking Kenneth Frazier to Step Down from Merck & Co.
One of only four Black CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, Kenneth Frazier has announced his retirement from Merck & Co., effective June 30, 2021. He was the first Black person to serve as a leader of a major pharmaceutical corporation. After nearly 30 years with the company—the last 10 as its CEO—Frazier will continue to serve on Merck’s board as executive chairman for a transition period to be determined.
Known as a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump, Frazier was the first CEO to resign from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council after the former president failed to denounce white supremacist groups following a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Frazier also spoke out following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, condemning the treatment of Black men as “less than human.”
To that end, he believed business leaders could and should be a “unifying force” in America and encouraged education, financial literacy and the hiring of more diverse voices in the workforce.
A Philadelphia native, Frazier earned a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and received his law degree from Harvard University at age 24. Prior to his tenure at Merck, Frazier defended and helped free an inmate who had spent nearly two decades on death row, falsely accused of murder, following a retrial.
He is co-chair for the Legal Services Corporation’s Legal Council and a board member for PhRMA, Weill Cornell Medicine, Exxon Mobile Corporation, Catalyst and Cornerstone Christian Academy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Business Council, the Council of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association.
Frazier will be succeeded by Merck CFO Robert Davis.
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