Abbott Labs misstated college education of soon-to-be CEO of pharmaceutical spinoff

Abbott Laboratories said Friday it repeatedly misstated the college education of senior executive Robert Gonzalez, who is soon slated to become CEO of its $18 billion-pharmaceutical spinoff. 

Company regulatory filings between 2002 and 2007 list Gonzalez as holding a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Miami and a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Houston. The North Chicago, Ill., company’s current website states that Gonzalez only attended those schools. The change was first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.

“There was an error made when the bio was written many years ago,” said Abbott spokeswoman Melissa Brotz. “When we became aware of it we corrected it.” Brotz said Abbott doesn’t know when the incorrect information was first introduced or corrected.

Abbott announced last October that Gonzalez would lead its spinoff AbbVie, which will market the company’s major prescription medicines, including the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Humira.

The split-up, schedule to take effect before 2013, is designed to free Abbott from the risks and uncertainty of developing innovative pharmaceutical drugs. Abbott CEO Miles White will lead a trimmed down version of the company built around medical devices, generic drugs and nutritional formula.

Gonzalez joined Abbott in 1977 and held various leadership positions until 2007, when he briefly retired from the company. He returned in 2009 and has been executive vice president for pharmaceuticals since 2010.

Brotz said the company still expects Gonzalez to assume leadership of the spinoff.

“There is no issue with respect to Gonzalez’s educational background and his ability to lead AbbVie,” she said. “He has had a distinguished 30-year career with the company and a demonstrated track record.”

CEOs of public companies who have not graduated college are a rarity, especially in the science and technology industries.

Earlier this year Yahoo dumped CEO Scott Thompson after just four months on the job. His departure was triggered by the revelation that his resume included a college degree in computer science that he never received.

Shares of Abbott Laboratories fell 72 cents Friday to $68.60.

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