Boerner to lead BMS after CEO Caforio steps down

Giovanni Caforio

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s long-serving chief executive Giovanni Caforio has said he will retire on 1st November after almost eight years in the role and more than two decades working at the drugmaker.

He will be replaced as CEO by Christopher Boerner, currently head of commercialisation at the group, who will prepare for the top job with an immediate move to the role of chief operating officer.

58-year-old Caforio will remain in his role as executive chairman for a transition period that will be determined by BMS’ board of directors. He joined the company in 2000 and rose rapidly through the ranks to become president of BMS US in 2011, chief commercial officer in 2013, and chief operating officer a year later.

He succeeded Lamberto Andreotti as CEO in 2015, and took on the additional role of chairman the following year. In a statement, Caforio said he plans to “shift my focus to spending more time with my family in Europe”.

The highlight of his tenure is undoubtedly the mega-merger with Celgene in 2019 for $74 billion – which divided opinion when it was announced, but has proved to be a success with nine launches in the following two years – despite being followed almost immediately by the disruption and distraction caused by the pandemic.

Caforio is credited with generating a true merger ethos after the deal, acknowledging that each company had something to learn from the other, rather than one being dominant, and facilitating a fairly smooth integration of the two organisations.

BMS’ lead independent director, Theodore Samuels, said that under Caforio’s leadership the group’s revenues have nearly tripled, with 12 product launches, including five first-in-class therapies.

“He has fostered a high-performance culture and highly engaged workforce and has been a strong advocate and champion for diversity and inclusion to drive innovation,” added Samuels. “His work has helped to solidify the foundation from which we will continue to build for the future.”

52-year-old Boerner, meanwhile, has been chief commercial officer at BMS since 2018, having previously led the group’s worldwide commercial and medical organisations. He joined the company in 2015, after earlier roles at Seattle Genetics (now Seagen and heading for a takeover by Pfizer), as well as Roche’s Genentech unit.

He will be replaced as chief commercialisation officer by Adam Lenkowsky, who is currently head of major markets. The new team will have to contend with upcoming patent expirations on some big-selling products, most notably blood cancer therapy Revlimid (lenalidomide), which contributed almost $10 billion of BMS total revenues of $46 billion last year.

“Chris is an outstanding executive, with profound knowledge of our company and proven ability to execute our strategy across all geographies,” said Samuels.

“We are confident that Chris, working together with Adam in his new role as chief commercialisation officer, and the rest of the leadership team, will continue the [BMS] legacy of bringing transformational medicines to patients.”