AbbVie looks internally for its new CEO, naming COO Michael

AbbVie CEO-elect Robert Michael

The speculation over who will replace long-serving AbbVie chief executive Richard Gonzalez is over, as the company confirms that president and chief operating officer Robert Michael will take the helm on 1st July.

Gonzalez, now 70, has been CEO of AbbVie since the company was separated from Abbott in 2013, and worked for Abbott for 30 years before that. In the following decade, AbbVie’s revenues have risen from less than $19 billion to over $54 billion last year, driven by blockbuster immunology drug Humira, which at its peak was pulling in more than $20 billion a year.

The current CEO isn’t hanging up his hat just yet, though, and will transition to the role of group executive chairman.

Michael – who has also been at AbbVie since it was formed – takes the reins of AbbVie as the group is coping with the loss of patent protection for Humira, sending revenues into a swift decline.

For full-year 2023, it made just over $14 billion, dragging AbbVie’s total revenues down 6% on the prior year, and the company says it expects further declines in 2024 before a recovery next year.

New immunology products Skyrizi (risankizumab) and Rinvoq (upadacitinib) have helped to soften the blow and, under Gonzalez, AbbVie has announced a series of acquisitions and licensing deals to bolster its late-stage pipeline, including the takeovers of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) company ImmunoGen and central nervous system specialist Cerevel for $10.1 billion and $8.7 billion, respectively.

Gonzalez came in for a lot of questioning over the succession during AbbVie's fourth-quarter results call, and didn’t give much away other than to say it would happen when the company had absorbed most of the impact of the Humira loss of exclusivity and was operating at “a higher level.”

He said at the time the appointment of the new CEO would likely be an internal candidate, saying it was important that they had the right experience to smooth the transition.

“On behalf of AbbVie’s board, I am extremely excited that Rob has agreed to serve as AbbVie’s next CEO,” said Gonzalez today.

“From establishing our financial planning organisation to the development of our diversified business strategy, to successfully navigating the end of exclusivity for Humira in the US, Rob has been integral to AbbVie’s impact since inception,” he added.

Michael said: “I am honoured to assume the CEO role for AbbVie, and I am excited about our company’s bright future.”