Abbott Labs’ New CEO Takes the Reins From Within

Medical device veteran Robert Ford, has taken the helm at Abbott Laboratories as its new CEO. Ford was appointed Abbott’s president and chief operating officer succeeding former CEO Miles White, who stepped down after 21 years. White, who also serves on the board of directors for fast food giant McDonald’s and heavy equipment producer, Caterpillar, will remain executive chairman of the board following the succession.

The new CEO, who originally joined the company’s Diabetes Care business in 1996, and was appointed president and chief operating officer in 2018, certainly has big shoes to fill, following White’s departure.

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White, who was appointed chairman and CEO in 1998, helped turn Abbott into a leader in medical devices and diagnostics with the additions of heart valve maker St. Jude Medical in 2017; the $25 billion deal marks Abbott’s largest corporate acquisition to date. He also launched Freestyle Libre, a glucose monitor that has surpassed 1.5 million users worldwide this year. In 2004 and 2013, respectively, White turned out two companies, Hospira and Abbvie and spearheaded the acquisition of the Knoll pharmaceutical business from BASF in 2001, which gave Abbott the leading Humira treatment for illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis.

“One of the primary goals in my career has been to leave the company well positioned for the people who count on us,” says White in a company statement. “Today, the Company is the strongest it has been during my tenure, and I am confident that Robert will lead Abbott successfully into the future. He is highly respected, has helped us shape the company during the last several years and understands the forces driving change in healthcare.”

When White took over in 1999, the company had a market value of $75 billion and 57,000 employees; today, Abbott has capital of more than $148 billion and more than 100,000 employees. In the first nine months of 2019, Abbott’s net income rose 53% to $1.47 a share from 96 cents, while sales rose 3.4% to $23.59 billion.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead Abbott,” says Ford. “I thank Miles for his mentorship, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to do what Abbott people do best, anticipate where science, medicine and technology are going and innovate to best serve our customers, shareholders and communities.”