Amgen Inc. Chief Executive Kevin Sharer late Thursday announced plans to retire from the company next year after 20 years with the Thousand Oaks biotech giant.
The company’s longtime research head, Roger Perlmutter, also is retiring.
Amgen, which made the announcements after the markets closed on Thursday, said Chief Operating Officer Robert Bradway, who also holds the title of president, will become chief executive. As part of the transition, Sharer, 63, will step down as chief executive on May 23 but continue as board chairman until Dec. 31, when he will fully retire.
The company's board plans to name Bradway, 48, its next chairman and elect a lead independent director at the end of next year.
Perlmutter, 59, who has been with the company since 2000, will retire as executive vice president of research and development, effective Feb. 12. He will continue as a consultant to the company until February 2013. Succeeding him is Sean Harper, who currently is senior vice president for global development and Amgen’s chief medical officer.
Sharer joined Amgen in 1992 and served as president until 2000 when he was named chairman and chief executive, guiding the company through its biggest growth years.
Under his and Perlmutter’s leadership, Amgen gained the approval for many new therapies, including billion-dollar blockbusters such as anti-anemia drug Aranesp and infection fighter Neulasta. It also made several strategic acquisitions, including the Seattle-area company that developed the popular anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel.
Amgen grew from $3.6 billion in revenue to become world’s largest biotech, with nearly $16 billion in revenue and operations in 55 countries. Growth has slowed in recent years as its flagship products Epogen and Neupogen matured, and Aranesp was hurt by safety concerns.
The company in July decided to start rewarding shareholders by beginning to pay a quarterly dividend, and announced Thursday that it would boost the dividend by 29 percent to 36 cents a share, effective at the end of next year’s first quarter.
“Today Amgen announces its next generation of leaders as we pass the reins to Bob Bradway and Sean Harper," said Sharer in a statement. "Bob and Sean have demonstrated sound judgment, delivered consistently excellent operating results and provided strong leadership in a variety of challenging roles.”
Bradway joined Amgen in 2006 as a vice president in operations, and in 2007 was appointed chief financial officer. He was promoted to president and chief operating officer last year. Before Amgen, he worked for 19 years at Morgan Stanley.
Harper, 49, will assume his new role on Feb. 13. Like Perlmutter, he will be responsible for Amgen's global research and development activities. Harper joined the company in 2002, and according to the company has held leadership roles in early development, medical sciences and global regulatory and safety. Prior to Amgen, Harper worked for six years at Merck Research Laboratories.
Shares earlier closed up $1, or 1.7 percent, to $58.62 on the Nasdaq.