Abbott Labs veteran CEO White stepping down in March
Abbott Laboratories CEO Miles White, who reshaped the Libertyville Township-based firm from a pharmaceutical company into a manufacturer of medical devices, will retire early next year, the company announced Wednesday.
He will be replaced by President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Ford, a 23-year Abbott veteran. White will become executive chairman after stepping down March 31.
White was named Abbott chairman and CEO in 1998. At the time, the company's main products were infant formulas and pharmaceuticals, but White refocused its scope into a medical device and diagnostics company through several spin offs and acquisitions during the years.
Under his leadership, Abbott spun off Hospira in 2004 and AbbVie in 2013. When AbbVie split into a separate company, it took the majority of Abbott's pharmaceutical brands -- including the popular rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira. Abbott had obtained Humira through an 2001 acquisition of BASF's Knoll pharmaceutical business, which White also oversaw.
He also led Abbott's acquisition of St. Jude Medical and Alere in 2017. That solidified the company's focus into medical devices, such as its continuous glucose monitor system FreeStyle Libre and Alinity diagnostics systems,
"He has positioned Abbott well for continued top-tier growth and innovation and we thank him for his countless contributions," said William A. Osborn, lead director and chairman of the nominations and governance committee of Abbott's board of directors.
Ford will become the 13th CEO in the company's 131-year history. All previous leaders were appointed from within the company.
Ford joined Abbott in the company's diabetes care business in 1996. He was appointed president and chief operating officer in October 2018.
Ford's tenure in the company includes leadership roles in the nutrition and medical device businesses. He oversaw the integration of St. Jude Medical and led Abbott's launch of FreeStyle Libre.
He earned a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.
Associated Press contributed to this report