Drumroll, Please...GlaxoSmithKline Just Named This Woman Its New CEO

Published: Sep 23, 2016

Drumroll, Please... GlaxoSmithKline Just Named This Woman Its New CEO September 20, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

LONDON – After months of speculation and searching, GlaxoSmithKline has finally found a successor to outgoing Chief Executive Officer Sir Andrew Witty. This morning the company announced Emma Walmsley, who currently helms the company’s consumer healthcare division will take over the top spot.

Walmsley, who was one of the lead candidates for the position, will step in to steer the company into a new era, but an era that is likely to see GSK remain a single entity, rather than break it up into smaller businesses. That type of revolutionary change was something that some key investors, such as Neil Woodford, a top 20 stockholder, had hoped to see. Although the company reported a 5 percent growth in emerging markets in 2015, sales in Europe were flat and in the U.S. sales were down about 10 percent as the result of formulary and contract changes to asthma drug Advair. Glaxo is under pressure to develop new drugs that aren’t threatened by generics.

“I am delighted and honored to be appointed GSK’s next CEO. GSK is a company that leads both in science and in the way it does business. We have momentum in the group and as the demand for medical innovation and trusted healthcare products continues to rise, we have the opportunity and the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders. I’m looking forward to working with Andrew and other leaders over the next few months to ensure a smooth handover and to develop plans for 2017 and beyond,” Walmsley said in a statement.

Earlier this year Witty had announced his intention to step down in March 2017, after 10 years atop the company. His resignation comes at a time when investors have questioned company strategy to combat lagging sales, as well as several scandals that rocked the company. It is likely that Walmsley will continue to steer the company in a similar direction to Witty, staying focused on a broad portfolio for the company.

In March, GSK began a formal search for Witty’s replacement, looking at both internal and external candidates. Walmsley was one of the top candidates for the position, along with Abbas Hussain, president of its drug business. Another potential successor was Simon Dingemans, Glaxo’s chief financial officer.

Philip Hampton, chairman of GSK’s board of directors, praised Walmsley. He said in a statement that she has the necessary experience of building and running major global businesses. He said Walmsley also has a strong track record of “delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare.”

“Under Andrew’s leadership, GSK has successfully developed into a company with market-leading positions in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare. These provide excellent platforms for sustainable, long-term growth, and we are confident Emma will successfully build on these strengths,” Hampton said in a statement.

Walmsley will be the first female chief executive to head a top global pharmaceutical company, Reuters reported. Walmsley joined GSK in 2010 after spending 17 years at L’Oréal, where she held a number of managerial positions, including overseeing the company’s consumer products division in China. Walmsley has been helming GSK’s consumer healthcare division since 2015 following the company’s three-part $20 billion deal with Novartis that saw the company swap its oncology drugs for Novartis’s consumer health products and vaccines.

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