Merck’s digital chief Scholefield jumps ship to Marriott

Merck & Co’s chief information and digital officer Jim Scholefield is leaving the company to take a similar role at the Marriott hotel chain after less than 18 months in the role.

Scholefield – poached by Merck from Nike in October 2018 – had also been given a seat on the executive committee, which underlined the importance attached to digital development at the big pharma.

At the time, Merck said that Scholefield had been brought on board to “help the company further succeed by driving industry-leading technology and digital capabilities across all aspects of the business.”

Companies are looking to thread digital capabilities throughout their operations, from drug discovery to production and delivery to patients, in order to boost productivity and make processes more efficient. At the same time, the industry is looking to develop digital medicines that improve patient outcomes.

Scholefield’s appointment was in line with an emerging trend among big pharma companies to have a C-suite executive in charge of digital, with similar hires announced at Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi at around the same time.

Sanofi’s appointment of Ameet Nathwani to the combined role of chief digital officer and chief medical officer also proved short-lived. Under new CEO Paul Hudson, Nathwani was let go in favour of recruiting a dedicated digital chief.

Scholefield arrived at Merck – known as MSD outside North America – as the company was dealing with the aftermath of the 27 June 2017 cyber-attack. That resulted in tens of thousands of computers across the company having their data encrypted, with a ransomware demand for $300 in bitcoin apiece.

Merck said shortly after the attack that it resulted in $135 million in lost revenues and $175 million in remediation measures to get the systems back online.

By the end of 2017 Merck reported that the costs linked to the attack had escalated to $870 million – and around $260 million in lost sales – with another $150 million lost in 2018 due to a “residual backlog of orders”.

The company is still locked in a battle with insurers over a $1.3 billion payout claim, who maintain it was an ‘act of war’ – fallout from cyber-attacks directed at Ukraine by the Russian military – and so isn’t covered.

There’s no word yet from Merck on its plans to replace Scholefield, who will be replacing Marriott’s retiring chief information officer Bruce Hoffmeister.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.