Merck’s Ken Frazier Named Chief Executive’s 2021 CEO of the Year

Honored by peer CEOs for his long record of leadership and courage; Joins list of legendary executives including Gates, Moynihan, Dell, Mulcahy, Bossidy and others.

Merck’s Ken Frazier, 2021 CEO of the Year

Chief Executive magazine today announced that Ken Frazier, Chairman and CEO of Merck, has been named 2021 Chief Executive of the Year by his peer CEOs.

Frazier was selected by an independent committee that recognized his exceptional long-term leadership: a decade of unprecedented transformation and growth at Merck—with powerful results for shareholders, patients and society.

Since becoming Chairman and CEO in 2011, Frazier has led a refocus at Merck on research, including early research, which resulted in numerous breakthrough products that provide far-reaching benefits to society—including the cancer blockbuster Keytruda. The committee also recognized his years of commitment to racial equality and social justice issues.

“Ken is an extraordinary individual who defines the meaning of leadership, not only in the corporate world but in society as well,” said Tom Quinlan, Chairman, President and CEO of LSC Communications and a longtime member of the selection committee. “This is evident from the results and milestones Merck has achieved during his tenure coupled with the courageous actions Ken has taken over the years to improve our society.”

“Ken Frazier is a world-class CEO,” said Dan Glaser, President and CEO, Marsh & McLennan. “He delivered excellent financial performance over a sustained period and, more importantly, he demonstrated courage and visible leadership during these troubled times.”

As a strong, public advocate for social justice and economic inclusion, Frazier is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Anti-Defamation League Courage Against Hate Award, the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics from Columbia Business School, the Legend in Leadership Award from the Yale School of Management, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund National Equal Justice Award, and the National Minority Quality Forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is co-founder and co-chair of OneTen, a coalition of leading organizations committed to upskilling, hiring and promoting one million Black Americans into family-sustaining jobs.

“I am most grateful for this special recognition and for the commitment and genius of my Merck colleagues who made it possible,” Frazier said. “It is a distinct privilege to serve as steward of an organization devoted to saving and improving lives, and I’m honored to have that opportunity as Merck’s CEO. Our company’s success is inspired by a common purpose—translating cutting-edge science into life-changing medicines and vaccines.”

Frazier joins fellow Merck CEO Roy Vagelos in being named Chief Executive of the Year. Vagelos was CEO of the Year in 1992.

“This award reflects the outstanding leadership that Ken has exhibited throughout his illustrious career,” said Tamara L. Lundgren, Chairman and CEO, Schnitzer Steel Industries. “He has been an inspired and inspiring leader: delivering excellent results, continually innovating, and providing an impactful voice on critical issues that affect our country and the business community.”

“Ken Frazier is a truly inspiring leader whose brilliant business acumen is clear,” said Adam Aron, CEO and President, AMC Entertainment. “Over and over again, he also has shown himself to be both bold and courageous. He is a class act in every respect and on every dimension.”

“Throughout his decade as CEO of Merck, Ken has consistently exemplified the core attributes of a truly transformative leader,” said Ted Bililies, Chief Talent Officer, Managing Director, AlixPartners, who serves as the exclusive adviser to the 2021 Selection Committee. “With empathy, authenticity and a relentless focus on strengthening the culture, Ken steered Merck and its people through unprecedented disruption to genuine transformation. Always firm in his principles, Ken has improved the lives of countless people while serving as an impressive advocate for social justice. I congratulate Ken on this much-deserved recognition.”

Frazier’s selection as 2021 CEO of the Year is scheduled to be celebrated at an invitation-only event hosted by Chief Executive Group at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York City this October.

About Chief Executive of the Year 

Over the past 35 years, Chief Executive of the Year winners have been a who’s who of American business leadership, including Bill Gates, Brian Moynihan, Arne Sorenson, Michael Dell, A.G. Lafley, Marillyn Hewson, John Chambers, Bob Iger, Anne Mulcahy, Larry Bossidy, Andy Grove and Herb Kelleher, among others. The honor recognizes courageous, long-term executive leadership for shareholders and society.

About the 2021 Selection Committee 

The Chief Executive of the Year was selected by a committee of distinguished peer CEOs. The 2021 committee consists of Brian Moynihan (Chairman and CEO, Bank of America and 2020 CEO of the Year), Adam Aron (President and CEO, AMC Entertainment), Carmine Di Sibio (Global Chairman and CEO, EY Global), Dan Glaser (President and CEO, Marsh & McLennan), Fred Hassan (former Chairman, Bausch & Lomb; Partner, Warburg Pincus), Neal Keating (President and CEO, Kaman), Tamara Lundgren (President and CEO, Schnitzer Steel), Robert Nardelli (CEO, XLR-8), Tom Quinlan III (Chairman, President and CEO, LSC Communications), Jeffrey Sonnenfeld (President and CEO, The Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute) and Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. (President and CEO, The Society for Human Resource Management). Ted Bililies, Ph.D., Chief Talent Officer, Managing Director, AlixPartners, is the exclusive adviser to the 2021 Selection Committee.

Chief Executive magazine (published since 1977) is the definitive source that CEOs turn to for insight and ideas that help increase their effectiveness and grow their business. Chief Executive Group also produces e-newsletters and online content at chiefexecutive.net and manages Chief Executive Network and other executive peer groups, as well as conferences and roundtables that enable top corporate officers to discuss key subjects and share their experiences within a community of peers. Chief Executive facilitates the annual “CEO of the Year,” a prestigious honor bestowed upon an outstanding corporate leader, nominated and selected by a group of peers, and is known throughout the U.S. and elsewhere for its annual ranking of Best & Worst States for Business. Visit www.chiefexecutive.net for more information.