Guidant CEO to Step Down

Ronald W. Dollens will leave by the end of the year.
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Guidant

(GDT)

Tuesday said that two high-ranking executives, both under the age of 60, will retire this year.

Ronald W. Dollens, 57, the medical device company's chief executive and president, will leave by the end of the year, while group chairman A. Jay Graf, 57, a member of the office of the president, will retire in July 2004. Graf had supervised the company's four operating units.

Guidant said a successor to Dollens will be chosen by year-end. Graf's title will disappear in a restructuring of top management. Graf will be replaced by Guido J. Neels, 55, who will assume the title of chief operating officer.

Neels, also a group chairman in the office of the president, has been in charge of worldwide sales and distribution since December 2002. He has held a number of executive jobs at Guidant. Under the new management structure, the heads of Guidant's four operating units will report to Neels.

The news sent Guidant's stock down 93 cents, or 1.6%, to $58.78, in mid-morning trading.

Dollens has been Guidant's chief executive since it was spun off as an independent public company from

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

in 1994. Both companies are based in Indianapolis.

Guidant's chairman, James M. Cornelius, praised Dollens' 32 years of work at Guidant and Lilly, adding that the board of directors would evaluate internal and external candidates to succeed Dollens.

"My retirement decision, which is part of a deliberate, long-term succession plan, comes at a time when the company is well positioned to continue its remarkable record of success," Dollens said in a prepared statement.

Guidant, which has 12,000 employees, is the sixth largest U.S. medical device company in terms of market capitalization ($19.1 billion). For the quarter ended March 31, the company earned $139.4 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $934.1 million.

The announcement from Guidant continues a recent string of high-level managerial changes at large medical device companies. Last week,

St. Jude Medical

(STJ)

promoted its president, Daniel Starks, to the added posts of CEO and chairman replacing Terry Shepherd, who retired. Earlier this month,

Medtronic

(MDT) - Get Report

appointed William A. Hawkins as president and chief operating officer. Hawkins had been in charge of Medtronic's vascular business.