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J&J board picks CEO to replace retiring chairman

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson Chairman Bill Weldon will step down from that post in late December and the world’s biggest maker of health products has picked new CEO Alex Gorsky to replace him.

The New Brunswick, N.J., company had named Gorsky, 52, as CEO earlier this year, replacing Weldon.

J&J said Friday that Weldon will step down Dec. 28 as chairman and then retire in next year’s first quarter, wrapping up a 41-year career with the company. Weldon, 64, stepped down as CEO in April after a decade in that role.

Gorsky, who will hold both of the company’s top titles, has worked for J&J since he became a sales representative in 1988 except for a four-year stretch when he ran the North American pharmaceuticals business of rival Novartis AG. Gorsky had been responsible for J&J’s medical devices business since 2009 before becoming CEO.

The maker of baby shampoo, artificial joints and drugs has been plagued by dozens of recalls in recent years for an array of products including prescription and nonprescription medicines, contact lenses and defective hip implants.

J&J is operating under increased government oversight and was forced to spend $100 million to gut and rebuild a huge factory in suburban Philadelphia because of quality concerns. The company also faces litigation over faulty hip implants.

Gorsky has said he wants to win back the confidence — and business — of consumers who have been buying rivals’ products and cheaper store brands for a couple years as the recalls and the plant shutdown halted or limited production of several products.

J&J shares rose 40 cents to $69.62 in morning trading Friday and are up about 5 percent in 2012.