NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drugmaker Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> has promoted Albert Bourla to the newly created post of chief operating officer, freeing up Chief Executive Officer Ian Read to focus more on long-term strategy and engaging with government and industry leaders.
Bourla, 56, will assume his new position at the largest U.S. drugmaker next year, Pfizer said on Monday. He joined the company in 1993 and has been president of its Innovative Health business, which holds its newer, patent-protected medicines, since the beginning of 2016.
Many had already viewed Bourla as the likely successor to Read, 64, and his promotion clarifies that, according to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst John Boris.
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Pfizer "is an innovative health company," Boris said. "It was clear that Albert would be the successor apparent as long as he continued to launch products appropriately."
Boris also said that with Bourla in the new role, Read would be free to focus on deal-making.
Each of Read's three predecessors as Pfizer CEO pulled off a huge acquisition, adding Warner-Lambert Corp for $90 billion in 2000, Pharmacia Corp for $60 billion in 2003 and Wyeth for $68 billion in 2009.
Read was twice thwarted in efforts for even larger deals, to acquire UK-based rival AstraZeneca Plc <AZN.L> and later Botox maker Allergan Plc <AGN.N>. Both would have allowed Pfizer to take advantage of lower corporate taxes in Europe.
During Pfizer's pursuit of Allergan, it was widely speculated that the company's highly regarded CEO, Brent Saunders, would be groomed as Read's eventual successor.
(Reporting by Michael Erman and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)