* AbbVie spinoff set for Jan 1
* Abbott shares slightly lower after hours
By Bill Berkrot
Sept 27 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories for years misstated that the executive handpicked to head its pending pharmaceutical spinoff held both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and on Thursday called the misinformation “an administrative error.”
Richard Gonzalez, named last October as the future chief executive of AbbVie once the company splits its drugs and medical devices businesses, did not complete his college education or receive a college degree, Abbott said on Thursday.
His company biography had stated that Gonzalez, Abbott’s head of global pharmaceuticals, received degrees from the University of Houston and the University of Miami.
The credentials flap follows the resignation in May of Yahoo Inc Chief Executive Scott Thompson after a controversy over a fake computer science college degree on his biography.
Crain’s Chicago Healthcare first reported the Abbott discrepancy on Thursday, saying the company’s regulatory filings from 2002 through 2007 stated that Gonzalez had a bachelor’s degree from Houston and a master’s from Miami, both in biochemistry.
Abbott has since corrected the educational credits in Gonzalez’s biography on its website, which now states that he was a research biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine and attended the University of Houston, majoring in biochemistry.
“It was an administrative error when the bio was written many years ago. It wasn’t identified right away,” Abbott spokeswoman Melisa Brotz said in a telephone interview.
“The information on the website is correct. When we became aware of it we corrected it promptly,” Brotz said, adding that the changes were made “quite a while ago.”
The company is firmly standing behind Gonzalez, and said there was no deliberate attempt to overstate his educational credentials.
“There is no issue with respect to Mr. Gonzalez’s educational background or his ability to lead AbbVie as evidenced by his distinguished 30-year career in which he has reached the highest levels of the company,” Brotz said.
Shares of Abbott, which rose 13 cents to close at $69.32 in regular trading, were slightly lower at $69.06 after hours.
Abbott Chief Executive Miles White selected the 58-year-old Gonzalez to head up the new company after the spinoff, which is set for Jan. 1.
White will remain in charge of Abbott, which will retain the medical devices, diagnostics, nutritionals and branded generics businesses. AbbVie, with Gonzalez at the helm, will be a pharmaceutical company with nearly $18 billion in annual revenue, nearly half coming from the blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira.