Andrew Witty, president of GlaxoSmithKline’s pharmaceutical operations in Europe, will be the pharmaceutical giant’s next chief executive officer.

In announcement made early Monday, GSK’s board said it had selected Witty, 43, over two other candidates for the CEO post.

Witty, who joined GSK in 1985, will replace Jean-Pierre Garnier when Garnier retires in May of next year.

“Andrew’s appointment follows a rigorous selection process by the Board of Directors,” said Sir Christopher Gent, GSK’s chairman: “The fact that we have been able to select a successor to J.P. from three strong internal candidates is a testament to the quality of management at GSK. The Board is confident that Andrew will build on JP’s considerable achievements which have positioned GSK as a leader of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Witty prevailed over Chris Viehbacher, the top officer for GSK’s operations in the United States, and David Stout, GSK’s chief operating officer, according to media reports.

“He’s a pretty young guy,” Peter Cartwright, an analyst at Evolution Securities, told Bloomberg news. He has a “buy” rating on GSK stock. “Time is on his side. He’s going to be in the job for a while, and he’ll have time to do a full review of the business.”

The Financial Times greeting Witty’s hiring as a return to GSK’s “roots” since Witty is English. The newspaper also said it saw little prospect of major changes being made by Witty.

“Don’t expect radical change, but his appointment looks like a modest fresh step by big pharma in the right direction on a tough and slippery slope,” the paper said.

GSK faces numerous challenges, including declining sale of its diabetes drug Avandia after questions were raised about its safety.

“Andrew has made many significant contributions to GSK and I am very pleased that he is to be our next CEO,” Garnier said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him during our handover and wish him every success.”

Witty received an undergraduate degree in economics from Nottingham University in the United Kingdom.

GSK has more than 5,000 employees in the Triangle area.