As his second year at the helm of the medtech giant draws to a close, Abbott CEO Robert Ford is adding a new title to his résumé.
The company’s board of directors voted to make Ford chairman of the board. The appointment took effect Dec. 10, at which time Miles White stepped down from the role he’d held for more than 20 years—comprising more than half of the former chief executive’s nearly four decades at Abbott.
“We’re grateful for Miles’ leadership and his exceptional work to transform Abbott into the leading health technology company that it is today,” said William Osborn, lead director and chair of the board’s nominations and governance committee. “Robert has continued to strengthen Abbott’s position by advancing our industry-leading pipeline while managing the company’s significant contributions during the pandemic.”
White’s retirement follows his decision to step down as CEO in March 2020. He’d held the top job at Abbott since 1998 and was tapped to lead the board of directors the following year.
“It’s been my privilege to serve Abbott and its many stakeholders, reshaping the company to keep it relevant and strong while medicine, technology and society have evolved,” White said. “Abbott will be in good hands with Robert’s leadership, and I want to thank the board and my colleagues—current and past—for their support during my tenure.”
Ford succeeded White as CEO last year following a decadeslong tenure of his own with the company. After joining in 1996, Ford spent the next 25 years working his way through the ranks of Abbott’s diabetes care, nutrition and medical device businesses.
That culminated in his being named president and chief operating officer in 2018. His unanimous appointment as CEO—and election to the board of directors—followed just about a year later, then took effect in early 2020. In his first year, Ford’s compensation nearly doubled, surging to more than $20.4 million in 2020.
“I want to thank Miles for all he’s done for Abbott and the people we serve, as well as his mentorship and friendship throughout my career,” Ford said in a statement about his latest appointment. “It’s my honor to work alongside the board and my global team to deliver on the unprecedented opportunities in front of us, so Abbott continues to lead in the reshaping of the future of healthcare.”
Though Ford’s stint as CEO so far has closely mirrored the onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s already led the company to a near-total recovery. By the second quarter of this year, even as COVID test sales slipped, Abbott registered a jump of about 11% in total global sales compared to the same period in 2019 and excluding COVID-related earnings.
In the following months, the company saw yet another bump in revenues as COVID testing rebounded, sending its virus-related diagnostic sales to nearly $2 billion for the third quarter of the year.