Fred Eshelman, founder and chief executive officer of Pharmaceutical Product Development, or PPD, plans to sell up to 1 million shares of company stock this year.

Eshelman, one of the largest individual shareholders in the company, will sell the shares as part of a diversification plan, the company said in a statement after the stock markets closed on Friday. He launched the firm 21 years ago.

PPD (NASDAQ: PPDI) stock closed at $32.15 on Friday, down 78 cents. It has a 52-week high of $41.17, a 52-week low of $29.55. The company’s market cap is $3.8 billion.

Analysts have pegged PPD with a target price of $40 entering the new year.

Even if Eshelman sells all the shares as planned, he still will hold more than 8 million. He plans to sell the stock under a Rule 10b5-1 plan as outlined by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

"I continue to believe in the future of PPD," Eshelman said in a statement. "These planned sales are simply a personal financial matter that will allow me to diversify a portion of my significant holdings in PPD."

PPD employs more than 9,100 people in 27 countries and has an operation in Research Triangle Park.