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Johnson & Johnson CEO will retire

TRENTON, N.J. - Johnson & Johnson’s longtime chief executive, Bill Weldon, is stepping down as the health care giant’s top executive after an embarrassing string of recalls of everything from Tylenol to Benadryl has cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and consumer trust.

The maker of Band-Aids and biotech drugs said yesterday that Alex Gorsky, head of the company’s largest business by revenue, will become CEO on April 26, the day of its annual shareholder’s meeting. Weldon will remain chairman of the board for the time being.

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“I’m honored that the board has placed such confidence in me, and I am also aware of the serious responsibilities that come with this office,’’ said Gorsky, 51, who oversees 140 manufacturing facilities globally as part of J&J’s medical device and diagnostics unit.

Weldon, who has spent his entire 31-year career at J&J, became chief executive in 2002. His departure is being described by the company as normal succession planning. But Weldon has repeatedly said he had no plans to leave unless asked to do so by the board of directors.

“I look forward to the transition of leadership and to a bright future for Johnson & Johnson,’’ Weldon, 63, said in a statement.

Weldon’s long tenure has been tarnished by more than two dozen recalls of nonprescription Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, and other drugs began in 2009. The recalls involve problems from contamination and a nauseating smells on containers to liquid medicines that may contain tiny metal shavings.

While there haven’t been reports of patients harmed by the recalled products, the sheer volume of them is probably unrivaled in the industry. Weldon has repeatedly said he had the problems under control, only to have another recall pop up.

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