Alex Gorsky got J&J top job after leading medical-devices division

Alex Gorsky will replace Bill Weldon as chief executive officer of health-care behemoth Johnson & Johnson after leading several divisions that factor into J&J's needs and hopes, including medical devices.

Gorsky, 51, was one of two vice chairmen, with responsibility for the medical devices & diagnostics Group, global supply chain, health care compliance & privacy and government affairs and policy.

Johnson & Johnson Vice Chairman Alex Gorsky

The other vice chairman, Sheri McCoy, will report to Gorsky and continue to lead the pharmaceuticals and consumer Groups, and maintain responsibility for information technology, according to the company. However, since some of the succession handicapping had her replacing Weldon, she might have options to lead other health care companies with vacancies at the top.

Gorsky started at J&J in 1988 as a sales representative with Janssen Pharmaceutica in the pharmaceuticals business. In 2001, he was appointed president of Janssen, and in 2003, promoted to company group chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceuticals business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

He departed the company in 2004 to join Novartis, where he led the company’s North American pharmaceuticals business. He returned to J&J in 2008 to be company group chairman and worldwide franchise chairman for Ethicon, one of J&J's medical device businesses. In 2009, he added the title of worldwide chairman of the surgical care group and to the J&J executive committee. He was appointed vice chairman of the executive committee in January 2011.

Gorsky, who graduated from West Point and Wharton, was one of the key players in the decision to spend $21.3 billion to buy Synthes, Inc., the medical device manufacturer with Chester County operations.

That sale has not been finalized and Reuters reported Wednesday that to satisfy European Commission anti-trust concerns, J&J might have sell some of its assets in the trauma category. The trauma division is one of the most profitable parts of Synthes, in part because, obviously, people are less inclined to put off trauma surgery. If you're unsure of your job, you might put off having a sore hip replaced, but you're still likely to have a broken leg fixed.

If forced to sell assets, J&J might sell parts of its device unit, DePuy, versus those of Synthes.

The Reuters story is here.