Then, in late July, Pfizer ( PFE) announced that Hank McKinnell had resigned as CEO immediately but would remain chairman until February. McKinnell was replaced by Jeffrey Kindler, one of the three vice chairmen who had been vying to succeed him.

McKinnell left about 12 months ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 65 amid a growing chorus of boos among analysts and a stock price that had fallen nearly 40% since he became CEO in January 2001.

At Bristol-Myers, Robinson, the chairman, will lead a committee to find a new CEO. Robinson said he will look inside and outside the company, adding that Dolan will act as an adviser.

Until then, the temporary CEO is Cornelius, who joined the Bristol-Myers board in January 2005. He previously served as chairman and interim CEO of Guidant, now part of Boston Scientific ( BSX). Before that, he was chief financial officer and a director of Eli Lilly ( LLY), Guidant's former parent.

"Jim's extensive experience in the health care arena will be critical in ensuring a smooth transition of leadership of this great company," Robinson said.

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