AbbVie's senior R&D exec Leonard joins exodus from the top ranks

The epidemic of retirements among top R&D executives is continuing with the news that AbbVie's ($ABBV) senior researcher is headed for the exits. AbbVie filed forms with the SEC on Friday saying that John Leonard, the company's senior vice president and CSO, will be leaving in the coming months. And the company says that one of his last acts will be advising the company on his successor.

Leonard is a veteran employee. Reuters reports the 55-year-old joined the company in 1992. And last year, as head of pharma R&D at Abbott ($ABT), he garnered total compensation of $5.5 million after his 20th anniversary with the company. AbbVie split away from Abbott at the beginning of the year.

Over recent months there has been a rash of such departures from senior posts. Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) top R&D exec, Elliott Sigal, announced his intention to pursue an "active" retirement in April. And Merck's Peter Kim headed out the exit, replaced by Roger Perlmutter, who had gone through his own "retirement" at Amgen after investors grew alarmed at the size of the Big Biotech's research spending.

While "retirement" is often a cover term for a senior-level industry divorce, there's been little speculation about Leonard's departure. Abbott had been wheeling and dealing on new programs during the year leading up to the corporate split, leaving AbbVie with a number of closely-watched programs, including one late-stage drug for hepatitis C. AbbVie has also been racking up growing sales for its top drug, Humira, which has helped keep investors happy.

- here's the SEC doc
- see the Reuters story

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