Pfizer said on Thursday that David Shedlarz would retire as Vice Chairman by the end of the year, after three decades with the company that turned difficult in recent years.
Shedlarz, who joined Pfizer in 1976, assumed a number of roles before being named chief financial officer in 1995, a position he held for a decade. He was promoted to vice chairman in 2005, after also having managed the company's former medical technology group.
During his long tenure as CFO, Shedlarz garnered respect as one of the company's more personable senior executives and for his role in building Pfizer into the world's biggest drugmaker.
The company's size and importance mushroomed with a huge deal engineered by Shedlarz in June 2000, the purchase for $114 billion of Warner-Lambert Corp. The transaction gave Pfizer full control of a cholesterol fighter named Lipitor which they had sold together.
Shedlarz' crowning glory came in April 2003, when Pfizer completed its $60 billion acquisition of another U.S. rival, Pharmacia Corp. The deal widened Pfizer's lead as the world's largest drugmaker -- with 11 percent of the global market for prescription drugs.
It also gave Pfizer full ownership of arthritis blockbuster Celebrex, which the two companies had co-marketed, as well as other popular Pharmacia medicines.
Helped by huge cost savings and job cuts from the two deals, Pfizer led the industry in earnings growth for several years. But its profit growth and share price then steadily declined as the company's laboratories -- even with an annual research budget that now exceeds $7 billion -- failed to come up with blockbusters needed to replace drugs going off patent.
The company's current stock price stands 22 percent lower than it was at the time of the Pharmacia merger.
Shedlarz' planned departure is the latest development in a continuing shake-up in Pfizer's corporate suite.
He had been in the running to replace Hank McKinnell as chief executive of Pfizer. But the top job was awarded instead to company general counsel Jeffrey Kindler in July 2006 when McKinnell was ousted after a dearth of new medicines sent Pfizer shares to multi-year lows.
Karen Katen, another vice chairman, had been the other major contender for McKinnell's job. She retired only months after being passed over.
But Shedlarz stayed aboard, agreeing to oversee manufacturing operations and strategic planning.
Pfizer in May said Chief Financial Officer Alan Levin had resigned and that the company's global president of research, John LaMattina, would leave his post after 30 years with the company.
In August, Pfizer named an industry outsider, Alcatel-Lucent executive Frank D'Amelio, as its new CFO. Earlier this month, it picked Martin Mackay, Pfizer's second-ranking research executive, to replace LaMattina.