J&J's Weldon to step down as CEO, leaving post to Gorsky

The future is a little clearer at Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), which has endured a number of recalls over the past year or so. The drug-and-device giant has named Alex Gorsky as its next CEO, succeeding Bill Weldon. Gorsky is a familiar face in device and diagnostics circles, having served as worldwide chairman of that group since 2009.

Weldon will step down as CEO on April 26, but will retain his title of chairman.

The choice of Gorsky might come as a bit of a surprise, as The Wall Street Journal notes. Many thought Vice Chairman Sheri McCoy had a bit of an edge over him to become the ninth head of the company.

Gorsky takes the helm of a company in which the device unit faces some problems, including lawsuits over recalled artificial hips. "It's been a challenging time for devices, but not through any of Alex's doing," Leerink Swann's Rick Wise told Bloomberg. Gorsky is "a thoughtful, disciplined, capable guy" who should steer J&J well, he added.

Still, many are expecting a smooth transition. "We do not anticipate significant changes in J&J's strategic direction under his leadership," Wells Fargo's Lawrence Biegelsen wrote, as quoted by Bloomberg.  

But while most analysts are absorbing the news, at least one expert sees the pick as questionable, particularly since Gorsky is an insider. The University of Michigan's Erik Gordon says the move shows J&J isn't serious about changing its corporate culture, which has been the epicenter of problems."I think it's a big mistake," he said, as quoted by The New York Times.

One of the biggest tasks facing Gorsky is the proposed takeover of Synthes, which J&J bought last year for $21.3 billion. While the orthopedics company looks like a good catch, EU regulators have expressed concerns. This morning, reports emerged that J&J has offered concessions to alleviate those concerns.The European Commission said it would decide on the deal by April 26, extending its deadline by 10 working days to assess the concessions.

- see the J&J release
- here's the WSJ article
- read more from Bloomberg
- check out the NYT story
- get an update on Synthes

Special Report: Johnson & Johnson/Synthes - Top 10 medical device deals of 2011