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Sir Andrew Witty announces decision to step down as CEO of GSK

Published on 17/03/16 at 08:59am

Sir Andrew Witty has announced his decision to retire from his role as chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (LON: GSK), from March 2017.

Witty joined Glaxo in 1985, and held a variety of sales and marketing roles in the respiratory and HIV/infectious diseases fields. He joined GSK’s corporate executive team in 2003 when he was appointed president of GSK Europe and became chief executive officer in May 2008. He was awarded a knighthood in 2012 for his services to the economy and the UK pharmaceutical industry.

He says: “By next year, I will have been CEO for nearly ten years and I believe this will be the right time for a new leader to take over. In making this decision it has been important to me that the board have the time to conduct a full and proper process and that we sustain the momentum of our current business performance.”

The search will now begin in earnest for his successor. That person will have to oversee the group’s attempts to return to growth. As we revealed last November, the company aim for its considerable clinical pipeline to drive this future growth. In his remaining time at the helm, Witty hopes to drive that growth in the midst of recent flagging performance.

He adds: “The progress we have made in 2015 strongly positions the group to deliver the medium-term outlook we set out to investors in May last year and to return to core earnings in 2016.”

Chairman Sir Philip Hampton paid tribute to Witty’s work and indicated that the new successor will help to further these aims. He comments: “Andrew’s retirement next year will represent the culmination of 32 years of service and leadership to GSK and the industry. We will thank Andrew more formally for his tremendous dedication and contribution next year. In the meantime, we will now start a formal process to appoint his successor, whilst also ensuring the group remains focused on execution of its strategy to drive growth and performance.”

The pressure has indeed been on GSK to take action on its perceived investor frustration. In January, fund manager Neil Woodford urged the company to break up into four separate business units, claiming that the group would perform considerably better after a radical shake up. He told the BBC that GSK is “like four FTSE 100 companies bolted together” and that it “does not do a particularly good job managing all of its constituent parts.”

Sean Murray

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