Johnson & Johnson has picked Alex Gorsky to take over from William Weldon as chief executive at the end of April.

The move brings to an end speculation as to whether Mr Gorsky, 51, or Sheri McCoy, 53, would take over from Mr Weldon, who will remain as chairman of the healthcare giant. The process to find a successor to the 63-year-old industry stalwart hotted up in December 2010, when Mr Gorsky and Ms McCoy were named vice chairmen in an expanded Office of the Chairman.

At the time, Mr Gorsky took on responsibility for a number of areas, including J&J's medical devices and diagnostics group and global supply chain. The latter role has been under the spotlight for quite some time, following thousands of recalls of over-the-counter medicines, including the children's analgesic Tylenol and Benadryl allergy tablets, as well as artificial hips.

Ms McCoy will continue to lead J&J's pharmaceuticals and consumer groups, and maintain responsibility for information technology. Mr Weldon said "this succession decision involved a rigorous, thorough and formal multi-year process, which included consideration of two superbly-qualified internal candidates, as well as outside candidates".

Mr Gorsky began his career at J&J as a pharmaceutical sales rep at the firm's Janssen Pharmaceutica unit, rising to chairman of the latter’s pharmaceuticals business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2003. He left the company in 2004 to join head up Novartis' pharma business in North America but four years later, he returned to J&J.

The move has gone down well with analysts who are predicting a smooth transition.