Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is preparing to launch what is called a “formal search” for a successor to Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty, reports the prestigious Financial Times as well as the Reuters news service.

“Chairman Philip Hampton has held a number of meetings with shareholders during which he has made clear that succession planning will be a priority for the board over the next couple of years,” Reuters reported early Monday, citing “people familiar with the talks.”

The Financial Times first reported the story on Sunday.

So far, GSK has declined comment.

“GlaxoSmithKline is gearing up to begin a formal search for its next chief executive as Sir Andrew Witty’s eight-year tenure enters its final stages,” the newspaper said. It based the story on unnamed sources.

Witty has led the drug giant the past eight years.

Hampton has already consulted with major shareholders about the transition to a new CEO, although a change is not expected soon.

The reports came as Witty continues to deal with shareholder pressure to break up the company.

Witty recently decided not to spin off GSK’s ViiV, a company focused on developing a cure for HIV.

“There have been calls from a minority of shareholders, including respected UK fund manager Neil Woodford, for a break-up of the group, with critics arguing its pharmaceuticals and consumer health units would do better as standalone businesses,” Reuters noted.

The company’s reputation also took a big hit following a bribery scandal in China.

However, its financials have shown signs of recoveriy.

Noted The FT: “[T]he outlook has improved in recent months, with earnings forecast to grow by a double-digit percentage this year. GSK is the only large European pharma group whose shares have risen in 2016 to date, although they remain down from three years ago.”

GSK has cut hundreds of jobs at its campus in Research Triangle Park and move other jobs to its campus in Philadelphia, Pa.

The firm still maintains a production plant in Zebulon.

Read the full Financial Times report at:


​Read the Reuters report at: