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AbbVie CEO Gonzalez to step down after a decade fiercely defending its top seller, Humira

AbbVie announced Tuesday that CEO Richard Gonzalez, who has managed the company’s ascent since it was spun off from the device maker Abbott Laboratories in 2013, will step down in July. Gonzalez had previously said he would depart when AbbVie had a plan in place to move on from its best-selling drug, Humira, which is now facing competition from cheaper biosimilars.

He will be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Robert Michael, who, like Gonzalez, is a longtime AbbVie executive. Gonzalez, 70, will become executive chairman of the board of directors.

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Gonzalez should be a sobering reminder to the drug industry’s critics of how resilient a CEO’s reputation can be. Because while he has been a subject of nearly constant criticism for AbbVie’s handling of Humira and the patents protecting it, investors are likely to remember him fondly.

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