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IS CLARK WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED?

In The NewsMerck took a middle-of-the-road path last week in choosing veteran executive Richard T. Clark to succeed Ray Gilmartin as its CEO?and got a middling reaction from Wall Street.
The choice disappointed some analysts and investors who had been hoping that a strong outside candidate would take the job and shake things up at the Whitehouse Station pharma giant, which has been bedeviled by Vioxx woes and a thin pipeline of new drugs. But others viewed Clark as a solid choice whose expertise in operations and cost cutting would address the company?s needs.
Clark, 59, had headed Merck?s manufacturing division and Medco Health Solutions during his 33-year career at the company. He immediately assumes Gilmartin?s titles of CEO and president. Merck said an executive committee of Merck directors, headed by former Honeywell CEO Lawrence Bossidy, will work closely with Clark for up to two years. Gilmartin, 64, was originally slated to stay on as CEO until 2006. He will remain with the company as a special adviser.
The challenges facing Clark include dealing with a growing wave of lawsuits from people who say they were harmed by taking Vioxx. His appointment came as a U.S. Congressional panel accused Merck of misleading doctors about the health risks associated with the painkiller. Gilmartin pulled the blockbuster drug off shelves last fall as evidence of its cardiac risks mounted. The decision put a dent in the company?s sales and stock price and prompted its directors to speed up the search for a new CEO. Some high-profile external candidates reportedly spurned overtures from Merck, daunted by the prospect of battling lawsuits while trying to replenish the company?s relatively weak selection of medicines in development.

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