Company veteran Belén Garijo named as Merck KGaA’s first-ever female CEO

pharmafile | October 6, 2020 | Appointment | Business Services, Manufacturing and Production, Medical Communications, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing  

German pharma firm Merck KGaA has taken the decision to appoint its first female Chief Executive Officer in its 352-year history, promoting company veteran Belén Garijoto the position. She will commence her new role in May 2021, when current CEO Stefan Oschmann will step down from his responsibilities as previously planned.

Currently serving as CEO of Merck Healthcare, Vice Chair of the Executive Board and Deputy CEO of the wider company, Garijo has worked with Merck for almost a decade. She joined the company in 2011 as Chief Operating Officer of Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical arm of the company.

Garijo becomes only the second female CEO to take the reins at a Big Pharma firm, following in the slipstream of Emma Walmsley who took up the top job at GlaxoSmithKline in April 2017. It is also a notable achievement within the company’s home country of Germany, where only 1% of firms were headed by a female, as of 2017.

It was announced that Peter Guenter, currently CEO at Amirall, will be joining the company to assume responsibilities that Garijo leaves behind when she takes up her new role.

On the news of Garijo’s appointment, Chairman of the Board Johannes Baillou remarked: “She knows our company extremely well and has done excellent work in transforming our Healthcare business sector. Belén Garijo and Stefan Oschmann have been collaborating closely and trustfully for many years. This will ensure a seamless transition and continuity in corporate management.”

Garijo herself responded with a post on LinkedIn: “Leading Merck Group will be a huge honour and a big responsibility at the same time. I am very grateful for the trust of the Merck Family. I feel well prepared, most importantly, thanks to the close partnership with Stefan Oschmann. Over the next months, I will spend as much time as possible to dive deeper into Life Science and Performance Materials topics. Very much looking forward to it!”

In addition to Garijo’s appointment, the company also announced that Matthias Heinzel will be joining Merck’s Executive Board next year from his current role as President of Nutrition and Biosciences at DuPont.

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