April 25, 2012 / 8:18 PM / 7 years ago

New J&J CEO parachuting into tough terrain

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is sending in a former Army Ranger to clean up several big messes that have hurt its reputation, earnings and share price in the past three years, and he takes charge on Thursday with uncertain odds.

Alex Gorsky said in an interview his biggest priority is to complete a revamping of its factories and manufacturing processes to fix quality control lapses that sparked huge recalls of Tylenol, Motrin and dozens of other consumer medicines over the past three years.

“Mission No. 1, 2 and 3 is getting these products back on the shelves,” said the 51-year old who becomes chief executive at J&J’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday. He has climbed the ladder at the diversified healthcare company from his start as a salesman in 1988.

Gorsky, currently vice president of the company’s Medical Device and Diagnostics group, will also have to grapple with costly recalls of metal-on-metal artificial hips made by its DePuy Orthopedics unit. The company recently took a $3 billion charge for recalls of the defective products.

And federal investigators have asked Gorsky to personally testify in a lawsuit involving allegations the company improperly marketed its Risperdal schizophrenia drug for unapproved uses.

He declined to comment on the hips and Risperdal litigation, citing the ongoing investigations and lawsuits.

Gorsky said his other biggest priorities are to successfully integrate J&J’s biggest planned acquisition, of Swiss medical device maker Synthes, once the $21 billion deal is approved by U.S. regulators, and to steer a promising array of experimental drugs successfully through clinical trials.

Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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