A former brigadier general in the US Army has been appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of PPD, Inc, the US-based contract research organisation (CRO) that, like many other companies in the sector, has been feeling the pinch of recession of late.

The new CEO is David Grange, who has been on the PPD board since 2003 and has served since 2005 as president and CEO of the non-profit McCormick Foundation. Grange’s 30-year army career included stints as a Green Beret, a member of Delta Force and, latterly, as commanding general of the First Infantry Division.

He replaces Frederic Eshelman, founder and vice-chairman of PPD, who moves into the newly created role of executive chairman of the board of directors. Grange will report to Eshelman under the revised management structure, which takes effect on 1 July 2009, and the former CEO will continue to be responsible for PPD’s strategic direction as well as for implementing its strategic and business plans.

Dr Ernest Mario, who has served as non-executive chairman of the PPD board since 1993, was named lead independent director of the CRO.

The reshuffle was greeted with consternation by at least one analyst. Steven Halper of Thomas Wiesel Partners was quoted by the Associated Press as suggesting that there were “probably more significant operational issues at PPD than we previously believed”. Other analysts, however, were more comfortable with the changes, saying they did not point to any drastic strategic overhaul.