Chris Viehbacher, GlaxoSmithKline’s top executive in North Carolina, reportedly will become chief executive officer at Sanofi-Aventis, S.A., a GSK rival, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said Tuesday that Viehbacher, who lives in the Triangle, is “poised” to take the post. The paper cited “people familiar with the situation” as its sources.
Viehbacher and GSK (NYSE: GSK) announced his departure Monday from GSK. He left GSK’s board of directors immediately and is scheduled to leave his executive position on Dec. 1.
Sanofi-Aventis, which is based in France, would benefit from Viehbacher’s experience in the lucrative U.S. market, the Journal reported.
“Although Sanofi-Aventis has managed to defend blockbuster blood-thinner Plavix against a generic competitor in the U.S., it has been less successful in launching new products that can offset the looming patent loss of its olde,r best-selling drugs,” the paper said.
On Monday, Viehbacher decided to “pursue another opportunity,” GSK said in a statement.
Earlier reports had said Viehbacher is likely to join another pharmaceutical firm.
“The identity of that company was unclear on Monday night,” The Financial Times reported. “Many big drugs companies, amid growing pressures across the sector, have changed chief executives in the past two years. Those that have not are not publicly seeking one.”
Viehbacher is GSK’s executive director and president of North American Pharmaceuticals.
Last December, Viehbacher was one of three executives who were considered for the CEO post at GSK. Andrew Witty won the job in December of last year.
“I would like to thank Chris for his significant contribution to GSK, he is one of the most talented and respected executives in this industry and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” Witty said in a statement.
Viehbacher is very involved in Triangle business and philanthropic endeavors.
David Stout, the other senior executive who was not picked as CEO, left GSK in February.
Both men were offered some $2 million in stock and cash as well as board seats to remain with the firm. Reuters reported that the retention bonus would not be paid.
Jean-Pierre Garnier retired as CEO earlier this year.
Viehbacher’s departure didn’t surprise analysts, according to Reuters.
“It was probably inevitable. Chris was not going to hang around as a number two forever," Reuters reported one analyst as saying.
Stan Hull and David Pernock, two senior vice presidents, will oversee GSK’s North American operations, a GSk spokesperson told GSK.
GSK recently launched a three-year restructuring plan that already has led to more than 100 layoffs in the Triangle.