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Abbott CEO White defends AbbVie executive

Miles White chairman Board CEO Abbott.

Miles White, chairman of the Board and CEO of Abbott.

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Updated: November 4, 2012 6:17AM

Miles White, chairman and CEO of Abbott Laboratories, has come to the defense of Richard Gonzalez, whose corporate biography has been questioned.

“I have worked with and known Rick for nearly 30 years. He is one of the finest leaders, businessmen and individuals I have known,” White said in an e-mail sent to all Abbott employees on Monday afternoon.

“He has managed and led our business with integrity and commitment to our patients, our employees and our shareholders,” White added. “The board and I are fully confident in him and his ability to lead AbbVie.”

White handpicked Gonzalez, 58, to be the CEO of AbbVie, slated to be spun off from the pharmaceutical giant later this year.

Last week, a report by Crain’s Chicago Business brought to light the fact Gonzalez’s educational credentials did not match what the company had posted on its website or in regulatory filings from 2002 to 2007.

Abbott filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission listed Gonzalez as having a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Houston, and a master’s degree from the University of Miami.

An Abbott spokeswoman said the company erred in listing the incorrect educational background. She said Gonzalez attended the University of Houston and was a research biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and said the correct information has been posted.

White reiterated that in the memo, which had the subject line “Recent Media Coverage.”

“There was an error made when Rick’s company biography was originally written many years ago,” White wrote. “It incorrectly stated that he had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Rick brought this error to the company’s attention after his retirement and prior to returning to the company in 2009.

“We conducted an internal and external investigation of the matter and his biography was subsequently corrected,” White told employees. “We also discussed the matter with the board of directors prior to his selection to lead the new company. After full discussion, the board and I concluded he is the right person to lead AbbVie.”

Gonzalez has been with Abbott since 1977, retiring in 2007 as president and chief operating officer, returning to the company in 2009. He currently is executive vice president, Global Pharmaceuticals at Abbott.

AbbVie will be a research-based pharma firm which will include Abbott’s current portfolio of proprietary pharmaceuticals and biologics, including the blockbuster Humira, along with Lupron, Kaletra, Synagis, Creon and Synthroid.

Abbott announced in October 2011 it would spinoff AbbVie.

White is an investor in Wrapports Inc., owner of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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