Abbott CEO Miles White to step down next year

Abbott announced Wednesday that CEO Miles White will step down from his position on March 31 next year, to be replaced by Robert Ford, who currently serves as chief operating officer (COO). "One of the primary goals in my career has been to leave the company well positioned for the people who count on us," remarked White, who has been chief executive since 1998 and will stay on as executive board chairman, adding that "today, the company is the strongest it has been during my tenure."

Under White's leadership, Abbott said the company bolstered its position in medical devices and diagnostics with the $25-billion addition of St. Jude Medical in 2017 and later with the purchase of Alere for $5.3 billion, whilst also making internal advances such as the FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor and the Alinity diagnostics platform. In addition, White spun out AbbVie in 2013, and prior to that Hospira, which has since been acquired by Pfizer.

Meanwhile, Ford, who joined Abbott in 1996, was appointed COO in October 2018, while still remaining the company's executive vice president of medical devices. As head of the devices unit, Abbott said he oversaw the integration of St. Jude Medical, and also led the diabetes care business and the FreeStyle Libre launch.

William Osborn, chair of the nominations and governance committee on Abbott's board, said White "has positioned Abbott well for continued top-tier growth and innovation." Commenting on Ford, Osborn described him as "the right person for Abbott's future," saying the executive has "significant experience running [the company's] global businesses."

During its recent third-quarter results presentation, Abbott posted gains in both medical devices and diagnostics, which generated sales of $3.1 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively, while FreeStyle Libre revenues surged over 63% to $496 million. For related analysis, see The Wider View: Abbott's diabetes franchise can only get sweeter and sweeter.

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