Home » 3 businesses owned by Kenneth Frazier

3 businesses owned by Kenneth Frazier

From courtroom to boardroom: Frazier’s diverse business ventures

by Adenike Adeodun

Kenneth Carleton Frazier stands as a distinguished figure in the American corporate landscape, marking his presence as one of the country’s leading Black executives. Serving as the executive chairman and former CEO of Merck & Co. — a global pharmaceutical giant known as MSD outside of North America.

His journey with the company commenced in the role of general counsel. Frazier’s leadership was instrumental in steering Merck through a tumultuous period marked by litigation over Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory medication. Frazier’s ascendancy to the helm of a major pharmaceutical entity not only shattered racial barriers but also positioned him as the first African American man to lead a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical firm. His contributions to the industry and society were recognized in 2018 when he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.

Frazier was born into a humble household on Dec. 17, 1954. His father, Otis, worked as a janitor, instilling in him the values of perseverance and hard work. Frazier often cites Thurgood Marshall, the iconic Supreme Court Justice, as one of his childhood inspirations. Tragedy struck early when he lost his mother at the age of twelve, a pivotal moment that would influence his path forward. He pursued his education at Julia R. Masterman School and Northeast High School, graduating at the young age of 16 before heading to Pennsylvania State University. To earn extra money in college, Frazier took on the entrepreneurial task of raising tadpoles and newts and selling them to local pet stores.

After he graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Frazier took the next step in his educational journey by enrolling in Harvard Law School. In 1978, he completed his studies there, receiving a J.D. 

His legal career commenced at Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia, where Frazier quickly distinguished himself. In 1991, under the request of Esther F. Lardent from the Death Penalty Representation Project, he undertook the defense of James Willie “Bo” Cochran, a death-row inmate convicted of a 1976 murder in Birmingham. Frazier, a partner at the firm, alongside colleagues, secured a pivotal legal victory when Cochran’s conviction was overturned in 1995 after nearly two decades on death row, leading to Cochran’s acquittal upon retrial in 1997. Frazier’s commitment to justice extended beyond his tenure at Drinker Biddle, as evidenced by his summer sabbaticals teaching trial advocacy in South Africa.

While working as a lawyer at Drinker Biddle, Frazier represented Merck & Co., then the second-largest pharmaceutical firm in the U.S. In 1992, he embarked on his career at Merck by joining the company’s public affairs division in the capacity of general counsel. His proven expertise and leadership within this role led to his promotion to senior general counsel in 1999, marking a significant progression in his tenure with the company.

During his tenure as general counsel, he played a pivotal role in managing Merck’s legal strategy against allegations that its anti-inflammatory medication, Vioxx, was linked to heart attacks and strokes. Financial analysts at the time projected the company’s potential liability could be anywhere between $20 billion and $50 billion. Frazier described this period as “the most significant challenge” he had ever encountered in his professional career. Opting for a rigorous defense strategy, he decided against quick settlements, preferring instead to contest each case in court. This approach ultimately led to the resolution of the remaining cases in 2007, with Merck settling for $4.85 billion.

Frazier continued to climb up the career ladder at Merck when he was promoted to executive vice president in 2006 while retaining his general counsel role. He then led Merck’s Human Health Division from 2007 until he was appointed as the president of the company in April 2010. On Jan. 1, 2011, Frazier broke new ground by becoming the first African-American CEO of Merck, succeeding Richard Clark.

Under his leadership, Merck embraced financial risks to foster the development of innovative treatments. In 2013, Frazier demonstrated his commitment to advancing medical research by prioritizing research funding over the company’s immediate earnings targets. A personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease—having lost his father to the condition—fueled his dedication to improving treatments for the disease. Moreover, Frazier has been motivated by a desire to enhance healthcare outcomes for people in developing countries, guiding Merck’s strategic direction towards impactful global health advancements.

Frazier’s influence extends beyond Merck, as he serves on the board of directors at the National Constitution Center and Eikon Therapeutics, along with his role as executive chairman at Merck. His past board memberships include ExxonMobil (2009–2022) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (2011–2021), and he continues to contribute as a trustee for Cornerstone Christian Academy in Philadelphia.

Frazier gained significant national attention in Aug. 2017, in the aftermath of a tragic event when a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent, resulting in the death of a counter-protester. The situation intensified when President Trump made remarks that were perceived to be empathetic towards the white supremacists. Frazier, compelled by a sense of duty to oppose intolerance and extremism, publicly announced his resignation from the President’s American Manufacturing Council. His decisive action set a powerful example, prompting several other council members to follow suit. This collective stand against the president’s comments led to the dissolution of Trump’s key business advisory councils, underscoring the impact of Frazier’s commitment to principles of justice and equality.

Beyond his notable career in pharmaceuticals, Frazier’s financial acumen is evident in his diverse business interests. Owning close to a million shares in Merck & Co., his portfolio extends to ventures that have significantly contributed to his wealth; Billionaire Africa highlights them below.

  1. Medeloop

Frazier’s investment in Medeloop showcases his keen interest in the cutting-edge healthcare technology sector. Medeloop aims to overhaul the traditional clinical research paradigm. At the heart of this innovative company’s strategy is an AI-powered platform that intends to streamline and revolutionize the entire research and development lifecycle for various diseases. By simplifying grant applications, optimizing data collection, enhancing data harmonization, identifying critical biomarkers and trends, and easing the process of manuscript submissions, the technology promises to significantly accelerate early-stage clinical research.

Medeloop distinguishes itself with a distinct patient-centric approach, enabling individuals to participate directly in research projects, thus democratizing the process and potentially hastening the pace at which new treatments are discovered and brought to market.

Frazier invested in Medeloop in 2023, when the company raised $8 million in seed funding. This investment round also attracted the attention of notable entities such as Maven Ventures, the Ovo Fund, NV Investments, and respected individuals like Dr. Linda Grais, a seasoned biotech entrepreneur and executive. Frazier’s involvement with Medeloop underscores his commitment to advancing healthcare innovation, particularly in areas that promise to make substantial impacts on research efficiency and patient involvement in the development of new therapies.

  1. Merck & Co.

Merck & Co. has been a cornerstone of Frazier’s wealth accumulation, contributing significantly to his financial status. As of 2023, the company’s revenue was $60.12 billion. He has been greatly compensated and rewarded for his pivotal role at Merck. In 2014, he was awarded a total compensation of $21.4 million, followed by $17 million in 2015, and an increase to $21.8 million in 2016. By Feb. 2017, Frazier’s ownership of 600,304 Merck shares was valued at an impressive $37 million. His financial engagements and stock transactions at Merck have propelled his net worth into the hundreds of millions. Furthermore, as of the end of 2016, Frazier was eligible for early retirement benefits, with a pension valued at over $26.5 million.

In July 2016, Frazier capitalized on his Merck holdings by selling 60,000 shares at an average price of $64.44. Over the following years, he continued to liquidate his stakes significantly, selling a total of 1.76 million shares between 2018 and 2020, with a cumulative value of $110.23 million at the time of sale.

As of Feb. 2024, Frazier holds a minority interest in Merck, possessing a 0.028-percent stake, equivalent to 705,220 shares valued at $88.11 million. This investment has seen a considerable increase in value, rising by $11.23 million from the beginning of the year, indicating a robust growth trajectory for Frazier’s stake in the company. Data from Billionaires Africa underscores the market value appreciation of Frazier’s Merck & Co. shares, showcasing his savvy investment acumen and the significant role Merck plays in his wealth portfolio.

3. Speaking Engagements

Frazier, esteemed for his profound knowledge and extensive experience in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, is prominently featured on professional speaking circuits, including renowned platforms like AAE. His presentations cover a broad spectrum of subjects, encapsulating insights on business, business leadership, healthcare, health, and medicine offering audiences a rich, multidimensional perspective. Through his speaking engagements, Frazier illuminates various aspects of these topics, drawing from his storied career to inspire and educate curious listeners across multiple domains.

You may also like


The world’s premier source of news on Africa’s billionaires and UHNWIs.


Get the daily email to stay informed about African billionaires and UHNWIs. Get informed and entertained, for free.

Latest News

@2024 – Billionaires.Africa. All Rights Reserved.