Gilead chief Martin to step down from CEO role after 20 years
California-based biotech giant Gilead on Friday announced that longtime CEO John C. Martin will be stepping down from his perch as the company's chief executive and transition into a role as Executive Chairman.
Gilead's new CEO will be current company President and COO John F. Milligan, who will also be appointed to the Board of Directors.
Martin and Milligan are veterans of the drugmaker who both joined the firm in 1990. Martin was subsequently appointed CEO in 1996 and Chairman of the Board in 2008, while Milligan became COO and President in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Over the past 20 years, Martin has a cemented legacy as the man who took Gilead to the big leagues, overseeing a period of growth and explosive returns for investors while also shaping the firm into a leading innovator in therapeutic spaces like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Those accomplishments have led publications like the Harvard Business Review to name Martin as one of the "best-performing" CEOs in the world (he even earned the second overall spot on the list in 2014 for delivering a staggering 7,000% industry-adjusted shareholder return).
Here's how Gilead's shares have performed relative to broader markets since Martin took the reins in 1996 (you can click on the image to expand it, and Gilead is the blue line):
Still, Martin's tenure hasn't been without its controversies. The biotech has come under tremendous criticism over its pricing practices for life-saving drugs such as the hep C blockbusters Sovaldi and Harvoni, the former of which has infamously been dubbed the "$1,000 pill."
A Senate report from last year also slammed the company for allegedly pursuing a "profits-over-patients" philosophy when pricing Sovaldi and Harvoni.
And just this week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey threatened Gilead with a legal complaint over its hep C drug prices, stressing that the costs have put a massive squeeze on public programs like Medicaid.
Gilead has pushed back on pricing criticisms by pointing out that the drugs, which achieve more than 95% cure rates in hep C patients, are far less expensive to the healthcare system than a hep C patient in deteriorating health which necessitates a liver transplant.
Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed federal suit against Gilead over its new HIV/AIDS medication Genvoya this week, too. The AHF says that patents associated with a component of the drug, tenofovir, should be invalidated because the formulation adjustments Gilead made to it result to an attempt at "evergreening" the patent.
Milligan will have plenty to deal with as he steps into his new role as CEO. At the end of 2015, Gilead stated to some media outlets that the company is actively on the hunt for a mid-range acquisition akin to its deal for Pharmasset (which landed the biotech Sovaldi).
Gilead will report its Q4 2015 earnings on Tuesday, February 2. You can read our review of Gilead's formidable 2015 here.