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announced that William Hawkins would become its president and COO, effective immediately. In his new role, Hawkins will be responsible for Medtronic's global product line and will report directly to Art Collins, chairman and CEO.

The move fills a vacancy in Medtronic's management suite that has been left open since 2001, when Collins, the former COO, was promoted to CEO. Hawkins, who is on the company's executive committee, joined Medtronic in 2002 as president of Medtronics' vascular unit. Medtronic promoted other executives to fulfill Hawkins' duties.

"Bill Hawkins' 26 years of demonstrated leadership experience in the medical technology industry have prepared him well to assume the expanded responsibilities of his new role," said Collins. "Since joining Medtronic, Bill has rapidly gained the organization's respect as he moved decisively to strengthen the company's vascular franchise."

Indeed, before joining Medtronic, Hawkins was the CEO of


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and Ivac and has held a number of high-level positions at some of the largest medical companies, including

Johnson & Johnson

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Eli Lilly

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Wall Street cheered the announcement, which comes at a critical time for the company. On May 24, the world's largest medical technology company will release fourth-quarter results. The following week, the company will release new stent data at a European medical conference.

Hawkins' "ascension at Medtronic follows several years of operating and leadership experience across the medical device industry," said Michael Weinstein, analyst at J.P. Morgan, in a note. "We applaud the selection, as it furthers our view that Medtronic's management is among the strongest and deepest in the industry."

In reaction to the news, shares of Medtronic were up 24 cents, or 0.5%, to $50.70 Monday morning.