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Moving On To Something New

Biz BriefsTwo powerful women have decided it’s time to smell the roses. Longtime Merck CFO Judy C. Lewent, 58, will retire in July after a 17-year tenure with the Whitehouse Station-based pharmaceutical company. Meanwhile Vivian Banta, 56, vice chairman of Newark-based Prudential Financial U.S., will step down this April.

Lewent was a key contributor to Merck’s 2005 corporate restructuring that called for focusing the company’s research on nine disease areas and speeding up development of promising drugs. Lewent joined Merck in 1980 and rose quickly to be named vice president and treasurer in 1987, and then CFO and vice president of finance in 1990. Lewent’s retirement comes as Merck tries to navigate through rough financial waters: it faces declining net income coupled with lawsuits over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.

Prudential hired Banta in 1998. She was promoted to vice chairman in 2002, overseeing the company’s domestic insurance division. Banta played a major role in Prudential’s 2003 purchase of investment firm American Skandia, as well as Allstate’s variable annuity business. Banta had spent a large part of her career as a bank executive for Chase Manhattan Bank. In 2002, she and Lewent were among the New Jersey executives named by NJBIZ as Women of Influence.

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