His successor, Ian Read, who has run Pfizer's worldwide pharmaceutical operations since 2006, takes over immediately.
Kindler, a lawyer who joined Pfizer in 2002, revamped its sprawling pharmaceutical sales operation into five divisions that gave their leaders more control and responsibility. Among other successes, that significantly boosted revenue in emerging markets and stabilized sales of older medicines hit by generic competition in the wealthiest countries by promoting them heavily elsewhere.
Kindler also pulled off a huge acquisition that ensures Pfizer remains at the top of the pharmaceutical industry for years to come, buying Wyeth for $68 billion in October 2009. And, as the chairman of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, he helped line up drugmaker support for the health care overhaul in a deal that ultimately will bring those companies more customers and sales.
In a surprise announcement late Sunday evening, Kindler, 55, said he's leaving Pfizer after 4 1/2 "extremely demanding" years to recharge his batteries. Kindler said he plans to spend more time with family for a while and prepare for new challenges.
Read, 57, began his career at New York-based Pfizer as an operational auditor in 1978, but his undergraduate training was in chemical engineering.
He moved up through leadership positions in Pfizer's Latin America operations, then oversaw operations in Europe, Canada and other areas. By 2002, he was head of operations in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
Read was promoted in 2006 to head the global pharmaceutical business, which brings in about 85 percent of Pfizer's revenue. It sells everything from blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor and impotence pill Viagra to cancer drugs and specialty medicines, generally pricey injected drugs for complex, chronic diseases.
Read is well enough known to industry analysts and others in the business community that Pfizer spokesman Ray Kerins said the company is not planning an analyst conference call or other announcements on Monday.